Predictors of physician frustration in the care of patients with rheumatological complaints

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1997 Sep;19(5):315-23. doi: 10.1016/s0163-8343(97)00042-x.


Recent studies of the doctor-patient relationship have shown that certain patients are perceived as frustrating or difficult by their doctors; however, little is known about the characteristics of these patients that elicit this dissatisfaction. As part of a larger study of rheumatology clinic patients with fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis (N = 68) we used stepwise multiple regression to select the factors most associated with physician frustration while controlling for the effects of other variables. Variable domains included demographics, psychiatric diagnoses, personality factors, functional disability, disease state, and trauma history. These domains as well as individual variables within these domains were systematically evaluated for their unique contribution to the prediction of physician frustration as measured by the Difficult Doctor-Patient Relationship Questionnaire (DDPRQ). Initial bivariate correlates of physician frustration included marital status, current dysthymia and agoraphobia, lifetime panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, adult rape and physical abuse, somatization disorder, physical and social disability, the presence of fibromyalgia, as well as neuroticism, illness impact, and perceived loss of control. The best multivariable model for estimating frustration magnitude included somatization disorder, perception of lack of control over illness, and a lifetime history of obsessive-compulsive disorder. These factors explained 48% of the variance in DDPRQ score. Physicians in this study were most frustrated with patients who had ongoing preoccupation with multiple medically unexplained physical symptoms as well as the perception of greater impact and lack of control over their illness. These findings suggest that treatment of somatization in patients with chronic symptoms may decrease physician frustration.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / psychology*
  • Frustration*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies
  • Social Perception*