JOURNAL ARTICLE

One single diagnosis, bodily distress syndrome, succeeded to capture 10 diagnostic categories of functional somatic syndromes and somatoform disorders

Per Fink, Andreas Schröder
Journal of Psychosomatic Research 2010, 68 (5): 415-26
20403500

BACKGROUND: In order to clarify the classification of physical complaints not attributable to verifiable, conventionally defined diseases, a new diagnosis of bodily distress syndrome was introduced. The aim of this study was to test if patients diagnosed with one of six different functional somatic syndromes or a DSM-IV somatoform disorder characterized by physical symptoms were captured by the new diagnosis.

METHOD: A stratified sample of 978 consecutive patients from neurological (n=120) and medical (n=157) departments and from primary care (n=701) was examined applying post-hoc diagnoses based on the Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry diagnostic instrument. Diagnoses were assigned only to clinically relevant cases, i.e., patients with impairing illness.

RESULTS: Bodily distress syndrome included all patients with fibromyalgia (n=58); chronic fatigue syndrome (n=54) and hyperventilation syndrome (n=49); 98% of those with irritable bowel syndrome (n=43); and at least 90% of patients with noncardiac chest pain (n=129), pain syndrome (n=130), or any somatoform disorder (n=178). The overall agreement of bodily distress syndrome with any of these diagnostic categories was 95% (95% CI 93.1-96.0; kappa 0.86, P<.0001). Symptom profiles of bodily distress syndrome organ subtypes were similar to those of the corresponding functional somatic syndromes with diagnostic agreement ranging from 90% to 95%.

CONCLUSION: Bodily distress syndrome seem to cover most of the relevant "somatoform" or "functional" syndromes presenting with physical symptoms, not explained by well-recognized medical illness, thereby offering a common ground for the understanding of functional somatic symptoms. This may help unifying research efforts across medical disciplines and facilitate delivery of evidence-based care.

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