It’s frustrating when you can’t find a reason for the pain and other physical symptoms you experience. You can end up going from doctor to doctor, hoping for an answer and a cure.
It’s entirely possible that you have an undiagnosed illness. Many people with rare illnesses struggle to get a diagnosis for years. It’s also possible that you have what’s called a “somatoform” disorder — and that’s something that Social Security recognizes as potentially disabling.
Somatic disorders include things like conversion disorder (where people experience things like seizures, blindness or paralysis without a known cause), pain disorders (where the underlying cause of your pain is unknown) and hypochondria (where you often misinterpret your physical symptoms and constantly worry that you have a life-threatening condition).
It’s estimated that 50% of new patient visits to a doctor are caused by unexplained pain or other physical symptoms. In some cases, people are undeniably suffering from undiagnosed illnesses or disorders. In other cases, the pain or physical symptoms people experience are a direct result of the mind-body connection. Your pain and symptoms are real, but they could be caused by mental health factors like anxiety, depression and so on.
The Social Security Administration does consider somatic disorders to be disabling under certain conditions. First, you must have medical documentation that you suffer from any of the following:
- Altered motor or sensory functions that are unexplained
- Distressing symptoms and behavior, thoughts and feelings that are related to those symptoms
- A serious fear that you have or will get a serious illness despite the lack of defined symptoms
In addition, you must also have either extreme limitation in one or markedly limited functioning in two of the following areas:
- Trouble interacting appropriately with others
- Problems understanding, remembering or using new information
- Difficulty concentrating, maintaining your pace or persisting at tasks or activities
- An inability to adapt or manage yourself and your tasks
If you’re no longer able to work because of your persistent but yet-unexplained symptoms, it’s possible that you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits due to a somatic disorder. That may give you the financial security and medical coverage you need to continue looking for a solution to your problems.