Much research has recently been conducted on somatoform disorders demonstrating their clinical importance, associated health-service burden and economic cost. These conditions are often comorbid with other mental and physical disorders and particularly prevalent in primary care and general medical settings. Although culture-specific manifestations and variations of somatization occur-it is now accepted that medically unexplained somatic symptoms are a universal phenomenon. The management of somatoform disorders is generally a complex and lengthy process; however, a number of recent studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of short-term treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy and educational interventions. Despite advances in their understanding and treatment, debate still surrounds the conceptualization and categorization of somatoform disorders, with a number of experts proposing a complete revaluation and reassignment of this diagnostic classification category. The following paper represents a review of recently published literature on frequency, characteristics, conceptualization, impact and management of somatoform disorders.