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March 2023

Somatization in frequent attenders of general practice

Author(s): Vanderhorst, F. G., Proot, I. M., Kraan, H. F., Gunther, N. C. H. F., Knottnerus, J. A.

Journal/Book: Soc Psychiat Psychiat Epidem. 1996; 31: 175 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10010. Springer Verlag. 29-37.

Abstract: The DSM-III-(R) definition of somatization disorder is too restrictive for use in general practice. A more comprehensive definition, the ''somatic symptom index'' (SSI) has shown good validity in open populations. However, a definition has to differentiate validly within a population of frequent attenders to be a useful diagnostic instrument in general practice. We studied a threshold of five complaints (nearly identical to the SSI) in 80 Dutch general practice patients. Patients were selected on age (20-44 years), history of back, neck or abdominal complaints, and on frequency of consultation-at least 12 consultations in the previous 3 years, corrected for consultations with compelling somatic reason for encounter. Prevalence of somatization in this group was 45%. Women had a 2 times higher risk of somatization. A relation with age was not found. Somatization was related to depressive complaints (relative risk 2.5) and probably also to anxiety. Somatizing patients consulted their general practitioner more often and had more health problems (especially psychic problems) than non-somatizers. These results support the validity of this definition. The distinction between our definition of somatization and somatization defined as a symptom of psychiatric (e.g. depressive or anxiety) disorder is emphasized.

Note: Article PJM Portegijs, Univ Limburg, Dept Psychiat & Neuropsychol, Sect Social Psychiat, & Psychiat Epidemiol, POB 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands


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