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Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2011 May;33 Suppl 1:S59-80.

Somatization in Latin America: a review of the classification of somatoform disorders, functional syndromes and medically unexplained symptoms.

[Article in English, Portuguese]

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  • 1Medical School/Post-Graduate Program in Family Health, Universidade Federal do Ceará (UFC), Sobral, CE, Brasil.



medically unexplained symptoms are common and associated with mental illness in various contexts. Previous studies show that Latin American populations are prone to somatization. Given the reformulation of the International Classification of Diseases towards its 11th edition the peculiarities of the population from this region of the world shall be taken into consideration. The objective of this study is to provide information on somatization in Latin American populations to help the decision making about medically unexplained symptoms diagnostic categories in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases.


Extensive review of the academic production from 1995 to 2011 on somatization in populations of Latin American origin.


The analysis of 106 studies included in this review was divided into 15 categories: systematic reviews, conceptual reviews, prevalence, primary care, depression and anxiety, risk factors, violence, organic conditions, relationship with health care, ethnicity, culture-bound syndromes, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, body dysmorphic disorder, and conversion and dissociation.


The Latin American studies confirm the difficulty in defining medically unexplained symptoms categories. The supposed "somatizing trace" of Latin cultures may be linked more to cultural and linguistic expression than to an ethnic nature, and these peculiarities must be on the agenda for the new classification of these phenomena in the Classification of Diseases-11th edition.

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