S05 – Somatizing as a Stigmatized Concept: Using Long COVID as an Example

S05 – Somatizing as a Stigmatized Concept: Using Long COVID as an Example

Friday, Oct. 28
15:45 – 16:45 (1 hr)
Meeting Room: Willow (Mezzanine)
Jon Davine*, MD, CCFP, FRCPC; Jeremy Devine, MD

CanMEDS Roles:

  1. Medical Expert
  2. Communicator

At the end of this session, participants will be able to: 1) Describe how somatizing may play a role in long COVID; 2) Describe neurologic and psychiatric sequelae to COVID infection; and 3) Describe how the DSM-5 might have colluded with the stigmatization of psychiatry.

Somatizing and somatoform disorders commonly occur in all branches of medicine. Some studies have shown that 10% to 30% of patients with somatic complaints who present to the doctor have no adequate physical cause to account for them. However, bringing up mind-body issues remains something difficult to do in today’s society. In this workshop, we define somatizing and discuss an overview of somatoform illness, using DSM-5 criteria. We discuss effective ways to make a mind-body link for patients in ways that are seen as collaborative and that help to develop an effective alliance with somatizing patients. We will discuss some of our issues with the DSM-5 classification of somatoform disorders. The DSM-5 intentionally took out the essential stipulation that the symptoms cannot be explained by a known medical condition. We discuss why we feel the reasons for doing this collude with the stigmatization of psychiatric issues in medicine. We will use long COVID as an example of possible somatizing and some of the resistance this engenders. Our central tenet is that bringing up the possibility of mind-body issues with a patient should be seen as something that enhances the interview and empowers the patient, rather than an insult, which is to be defended against.


  1. Mayou R, Kirmayer LJ, Simon G, et al. Somatoform disorders: time for a new approach in DSM-V. Am J Psychiatry 2005;162:847-55.
  2. Taquet M, Geddes JR, Husain M, et al. 6-month neurologic and psychiatric outcomes in 236,379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records. Lancet Psychiatry 2021;8:416-27.