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Psychiatric Diseases - Physical Signs and Symptoms

Persons suffering from psychiatric disorders usually take long to seek psychiatric help out of sheer ignorance about their signs and symptoms. The delay in recognizing the problem leads to unnecessary suffering and in some cases the disease becomes resistant to all treatment. The common belief that psychiatrists only treat insane lunatics reflects negative attitude of the society towards psychiatric disorders and lack of information about the current status of knowledge and techniques of management of these disorders.

Almost all of us have had first hand experience of common symptoms like pain, fever, diarrhoea, itching or running nose etc. and we all recognize them as symptoms of physical diseases. Most of us find it difficult to believe that psychiatric illnesses (mental disorders) also have physical (somatic) symptoms as their sole or initial manifestation.

The list of the symptoms is long but some outstanding features are:

Symptom of pain related to at least four different sites or functions concurrently likes headache, generalized body ache, pain abdomen and pain in some small part of chest.

Two or more symptoms related to gastro-intestinal tract other than pain like nausea, abdominal distress, changed appetite with either weight loss or weight gain

One symptom of sexual dysfunction.

Any combination of at least three of the symptoms like palpitation, sweating, trembling, choking, chest pain or discomfort, nausea or abdominal distress along with anxiety or worry.

Easy fatigability in the absence of chronic debilitating disease

Disturbances of sleep pattern of a few days duration in the form of either frequently interrupted sleep, difficulty in falling off to sleep, early morning awakening, unsatisfactory non-refreshing sleep or complete lack of sleep for consecutive three nights.

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