Many patients with somatoform disorders are frequently encountered in psychosomatic clinics as well as in primary care clinics. To assess such patients objectively, the concept of somatosensory amplification may be useful. Somatosensory amplification refers to the tendency to experience a somatic sensation as intense, noxious, and disturbing. It may have a role in a variety of medical conditions characterized by somatic symptoms that are disproportionate to demonstrable organ pathology. It may also explain some of the variability in somatic symptomatology found among different patients with the same serious medical disorder. It has been assessed with a self-report questionnaire, the Somatosensory Amplification Scale. This instrument was developed in a clinical setting in the U.S., and the reliability and validity of the Japanese and Turkish versions have been confirmed as well.
Many studies have attempted to clarify the specific role of somatosensory amplification as a pathogenic mechanism in somatization. It has been reported that somatosensory amplification does not correlate with heightened sensitivity to bodily sensations and that emotional reactivity exerts its influence on somatization via a negatively biased reporting style. According to our recent electroencephalographic study, somatosensory amplification appears to reflect some aspects of long-latency cognitive processing rather than short-latency interoceptive sensitivity.
The concept of somatosensory amplification can be useful as an indicator of somatization in the therapy of a broad range of disorders, from impaired self-awareness to various psychiatric disorders. It also provides useful information for choosing appropriate pharmacological or psychological therapy. While somatosensory amplification has a role in the presentation of somatic symptoms, it is closely associated with other factors, namely, anxiety, depression, and alexithymia that may also influence the same. The specific role of somatosensory amplification with regard to both neurological and psychological function should be clarified in future studies. In this paper, we will explain the concept of amplification and describe its role in psychosomatic illness.