In March 2015, by all appearances, pilot Andrea Lubitz deliberately slammed Germanwings flight 479525 into the French Alps killing all 150 passengers and crew. Following the crash, the German police searched Lubitz’s home. According to local newspaper Die Welt, authorities found clear evidence that Lubitz suffered from a psychosomatic illness. The investigators discovered multiple prescriptions for psychological illnesses. The airline feigned ignorance about Lubitz’s mental health problems.
In the United States, it has been reported that the rise in prescription drug consumption has given rise to the increase in the number of psychosomatic and somatoform illnesses.
The Mayo Clinic defines a psychosomatic illness as a medical condition lacking a physical basis. The patient’s symptoms emanate from the brain; they are not real. WebMD defines somatoform disorders as mental illnesses manifesting pain from symptoms that cannot be traced to a physical cause. Unlike an individual with a psychosomatic illness, someone with somatoform disorder experiences pain. He is not faking.
About Health notes 5 percent of complaints physicians here in the primary care setting cannot be traced to a cause. People suffering from hypochondria – a somatoform disorder – say they are sick even when they are not. They have a history of seeing multiple doctors in the hope one will confirm their self-diagnosis.
Similarly, conversion disorder is also a type of somatoform disorder. Someone with conversion disorder may lose the ability to speak or walk correctly. He or she may develop paralysis. Conversion disorder is precipitated by intense stress or prolonged stressful situations. Again, there are no organic causes for the condition.
Fake and take
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes the prescription drug abuse problem in the U.S. as an epidemic. Deaths related to prescription drug abuse now outnumber deaths from automobile accidents. In response to this alarming trend, all states except for Missouri have instituted prescription drug monitoring programs. These programs collect and store the prescription drug history of patients in each state.
Doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals can access this data to determine if a patient is abusing prescription medicines by doctor shopping. Prior to prescription drug monitoring programs, it was relatively easy for an individual to go from physician to physician in the hopes one would write a prescription for an opioid painkiller. The difference between doctor shoppers and individuals with psychosomatic or somatoform illnesses is doctor shoppers are addicts. There is no mystery surrounding their quest for a prescription.
Prescriptions work — for awhile
Psychosomatic illnesses are rooted in the brain. According to Psychology Today, any medication proving effective to treat an imaginary illness is nothing more than the placebo effect.
Physicians warn of the dangers of treating any somatoform disorder pharmacologically. Patients typically report a decrease in symptoms after taking a prescription. The relief is short-lived, though, because what is ailing the individual is not in his body, but in his mind. Psychotherapy is what’s needed; not Rx.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that an estimated 2.4 million Americans used prescription drugs non-medically in 2010. This means more than 6,000 people each day abused a prescription medicine. If you’re abusing a prescription medicine, call 866-450-1557. We can help.