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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