Etiology of Somatoform Disorders

Personality, cognitive factors, and learning appear to be involved in the etiology of somatoform disorders.

Personality Factors

Some researchers have suggested that people with histrionic personality traits are more likely to develop somatoform disorders. Histrionic people enjoy being the center of attention. They tend to be self-focused, excitable, highly open to suggestion, very emotional, and dramatic.

Cognitive Factors

Researchers have proposed that several cognitive factors contribute to somatoform disorders:

  • People with these disorders may pay too much attention to bodily sensations.
  • They may make catastrophic conclusions when they experience minor symptoms.
  • They may have distorted ideas about good health and expect healthy people to be free of any symptoms or discomfort.


People with somatoform disorders may learn to adopt a sick role because they are reinforced for being sick. Rewards that help to maintain sickness include attention and sympathy from others and avoidance of work and family challenges.

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