Somatoform Pain Disorder

Somatoform pain disorder is a mental illness that causes pain. No apparent cause for the pain can be found through medical tests and it is not the result of drug/alcohol abuse or another mental illness. In somatoform pain disorder, your doctor believes that you are not faking your pain. The pain experienced is real, and persistent enough to interfere with your daily life. The disease also causes high levels of stress and frustration about there being no known cause of the pain. ​​

If you believe you have somatoform pain disorder, your symptoms may vary depending on where the pain is experienced. These are the common symptoms associated with the disorder:

  • Negative feelings such as helplessness or being hopeless with respect to pain and its management

  • Inactivity, passivity, and/or disability

  • Increased pain requiring clinical intervention

  • Insomnia and fatigue

  • Disrupted social relationships at home, work, or school

  • Depression and/or anxiety​

If you are experiencing chronic pain without an identifiable cause, seek help from your doctor. You can obtain additional information and expert medical advice from the highly trained and internationally accredited staff working with the Mind and Brain Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital.​

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started.​

If your primary complaint is the experience of pain and when impairment at home, work, or school causes significant distress, a diagnosis of pain disorder may be given. This diagnosis is further differentiated by subtype depending on whether or not pain primarily is accounted for by psychological factors and whether the pain is acute (less than six months) or chronic (six months or more). This is important because the effectiveness of treatment depends on the diagnosis of pain disorder and its type.​

If you experience unexplained physical symptoms, it is tempting to believe that the symptoms have an underlying physical cause, despite all the tests stating otherwise. You may dismiss any suggestion that psychiatric factors may be playing a role in your symptoms.

However, it is important to trust your doctor and have a strong doctor-patient relationship. This is necessary for getting help with somatoform pain disorder. The focus of treatment will be on improving daily functioning, not on managing symptoms. 

Stress reduction is often an important part of getting better. Counselling for family and friends may also be useful. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy may also help relieve symptoms. This will focus on correcting distorted thoughts and other types of behaviour that may lead to stress and anxiety.​

If you are experiencing depression as a symptom of the disorder, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.