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Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1992 Jul;14(4):265-72.

The epidemiology and treatment of depression when it coexists with somatoform disorders, somatization, or pain.

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NIMH Center for Rural Mental Health Care Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock 72205.


This article reviews the relationship between depressive disorders and somatoform disorders, somatization, and pain. These disorders and symptoms are clinically interrelated, yet the nature of the interrelation is not well understood. This review of the literature from 1975 through mid-year 1990 addresses the epidemiology and treatment of these conditions and/or symptoms when they occur together. When robust criteria are used to determine which publications are included, only 14 are available that address depressive disorders, somatoform disorders, and somatization. Similarly, there are only 13 that address depressive disorders and pain. Taken together, these studies indicate that 1) in somatization disorder patients, there is a high prevalence of depression; 2) in patients with major depression, there are substantial levels of hypochondriacal and somatizing symptoms; 3) that depression in the face of coexisting somatization disorder can be successfully treated; 4) in chronic pain patients, there is a high prevalence of depressive disorders; 5) in patients with major depression, pain is a frequent complaint; 6) and finally, that pain improves with the treatment of depression. What is most striking from this review, however, is the very limited number of studies that address these important problems. This lack of research-based data calls for new aggressive research efforts in this area.

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