Somatization in survivors of catastrophic trauma: a methodological review.

Carol S North

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The literature on mental health effects of catastrophic trauma such as community disasters focuses on posttraumatic stress disorder. Somatization disorder is not listed among the classic responses to disaster, nor have other somatoform disorders been described in this literature. Nondiagnostic "somatization," "somatization symptoms," and "somatic symptoms" form the basis of most information about somatization in the literature. However, these concepts have not been validated, and therefore this work suffers from multiple methodological problems of ascertainment and interpretation. Future research is encouraged to consider many methodological issues in obtaining adequate data to address questions about the association of somatization with traumatic events, including a) appropriate comparison groups, b) satisfactory definition and measurement of somatization, c) exclusion of medical explanations for the symptoms, d) recognition of somatizers' spurious attribution of symptoms to medical causes, e) collection of data from additional sources beyond single-subject interviews, f) validation of diagnosis-unrelated symptom reporting or reconsideration of symptoms within diagnostic frameworks, g) separation of somatization after an event into new (incident) and preexisting categories, h) development of research models that include sufficient variables to examine the broader scope of potential relationships, and i) novel consideration of alternative causal directionalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-640
Number of pages4
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Volume110 Suppl 4
StatePublished - Aug 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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