Somatization in Primary Care, with a Focus on Immigrants and Refugees

Rolando Castillo, Howard Waitzkin, Yvette Ramirez, Javier Escobar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


An influx of immigrants and refugees into the United States has created challenges for family physicians and other primary care practitioners, including the recognition and treatment of somatization (symptoms for which no organic pathologic explanation can be found). In this structured review of the literature on somatization and its comorbidity, we focus on immigrants and refugees as well as on the clinical implications for primary care providers. Somatoform symptoms are common presenting complaints among refugees and immigrants who seek primary care services. Such symptoms may result from extremely stressful experiences before, during, or after migration and may co-occur with other mental health disorders. Varying cultural patterns also shape the presentation of somatoform symptoms in primary care. The relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder and somatization remains incompletely assessed. Culturally mediated somatoform complaints among immigrants and refugees should become a focus of further research and educational efforts in family medicine and primary care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-646
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of family medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)


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