The 'multiplex model' of somatic symptoms: application to tinnitus among traumatized Cambodian refugees

Transcult Psychiatry. 2008 Jun;45(2):287-317. doi: 10.1177/1363461508089768.


Somatic symptoms are a common clinical presentation of distress among ethnic populations in the USA, particularly traumatized refugees. In this article, we apply a 'multiplex model' of bodily experience to explain how a somatic symptom is evoked, amplified, and generates distress, particularly distress related to post-traumatic stress disorder. We illustrate the multiplex model's applicability to acute episodes of tinnitus (i.e., a buzzing-like sound in the ear) among Cambodian refugees, a common symptom in that group. The article demonstrates the importance of carefully examining somatic symptoms and associated meanings in distressed ethnic populations, especially traumatized refugees, and aims to contribute to a medical anthropology of somatic symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Cambodia / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data*
  • Somatoform Disorders / ethnology*
  • Somatoform Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / ethnology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Tinnitus / ethnology*
  • United States