Aim: The aim of the present study was to determine dissatisfaction with body appearance and bodily functions and to assess self-esteem in somatizing patients.
Methods: Body image and self-esteem were investigated in 128 women; 34 of those had diagnosed somatoform disorders, 50 were breast cancer patients with total mastectomy surgery alone, and 44 were healthy subjects. Body image and self-esteem were assessed using the Body Cathexis Scale and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.
Results: The two clinical groups did not differ from one another (z = −1.832, P = 0.067), but differed from healthy controls in terms of body image (somatizing patients vs healthy controls, z = −3.628, P < 0.001; total mastectomy patients vs healthy controls, z = −3.172, P = 0.002). They also did not differ significantly in terms of self-esteem (z = −0.936, P = 0.349) when depressive symptoms were controlled. No statistically significant difference was observed between total mastectomy patients and healthy controls in terms of self-esteem (z = −1.727, P = 0.084). The lower levels of self-esteem in somatizing patients were largely mediated by depressive symptoms. Depressed and non-depressed somatizing patients differed significantly from healthy controls with respect to their self-esteem and body image.
Conclusions: Somatizing patients who were dissatisfied with their bodily functions and appearance had lower levels of self-esteem and high comorbidity of depression. In clinical practice it is suggested that clinicians should take into account psychiatric comorbidity, self-esteem, and body image in somatizing patients when planning treatment approaches.