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Phenomenology of Somatization in Immigrants: An Idealtypical Approach.

Psychopathology 2024 June 5
INTRODUCTION: Somatization in immigrants is frequent but standard studies do not differentiate between various forms of somatization. In this qualitative study, we used an idealtypical approach with the aim of phenomenologically differentiating between different forms of somatization in immigrants.

METHODS: The clinical description of the ideal types was based on seven levels: medical examination; description of somatization symptoms; the patients' own interpretation of their somatic experience; concomitant psychopathological phenomena; genetic understanding; clinician's interpretation; and course and treatment.

RESULTS: Five different ideal typologies of patients emerged: anxious hypochondriasis, somatization with cultural features playing a pathogenetic role, culturally shaped somatization (through pathoplastic effects), somatization as part of adjustment reactions due to migratory living difficulties, and somatization as post-traumatic reaction.

CONCLUSION: These differences are useful to highlight the complex interrelationship between socioeconomic, migratory, cultural, and value factors in the construction of somatization among immigrants. Implications for research methodology, nosology, clinical management, and organization of medical facilities are also discussed.

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