Cases That Test Your Skills

When the worry is worse than the actual illness

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The treatment team at the outpatient psychiatry clinic agreed that Ms. S did not currently meet criteria for anorexia nervosa, MDD, FDIS, or FDIA. However, Ms. S reported worries particular to persistent abdominal pain that was exacerbated by either eating or going to bed at night, which indicated that somatic symptom disorder was her likely diagnosis. Further, she endorsed a high level of anxiety and depression with regard to this somatic complaint that interfered with her daily activities and consumed an excessive amount of time, which also pointed to somatic symptom disorder. As a result of this diagnosis, the treatment team helped Ms. S manage her somatic symptoms and monitored for any other changes in her symptoms.

Generally, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based therapy may help relieve symptoms associated with somatic symptom disorder.4

TREATMENT Therapy sessions and medication management

At the psychiatric clinic, Ms. S is scheduled for biweekly therapy sessions with a social worker and biweekly appointments with a senior psychiatry resident for medication management. At each visit, Ms. S’s vital signs, height, and weight are measured. In the therapy sessions, she is taught mindfulness skills as well as CBT. The senior psychiatry resident maintains regular communication with the other clinicians involved in Ms. S’s care.

After the first month of treatment, Ms. S undergoes repeat imaging at the gastroenterologist’s office that indicates her SMAS is no longer occluded. Ms. S continues to report somatic symptoms, but with mild improvement.

Over the course of approximately 4 months, Ms. S begins to show signs of improvement in her pain, anxiety, and depression. Ms. S begins to feel well enough to get a summer job at a nursing home and expresses enthusiasm when her weight begins to increase. Her mother also became enthused and verbalized her appreciation that her daughter appeared to be improving.

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