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June 2022

Illness behavior and somatization in general practice

Author(s): Lovell, P., Pearce, R., Marley, J., Pilowsky, I.

Journal/Book: J Psychosom Res. 1996; 41: The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England OX5 1GB. Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd. 247-254.

Abstract: In the primary care setting, the early recognition that a patient has psychological problems is frequently hindered by the deceptive mode of presentation known as somatization. In a cross-sectional survey of patients attending suburban General Practitioners in a large metropolitan city, the General Health Questionnaire-30 (GHQ-30) and the Illness Behavior Questionnaire (IBQ) were completed by 201 patients. A comparison was made between somatizing and nonsomatizing patients with new inceptions of illness in terms of the risk of the presence of a mild nonpsychotic psychiatric illness and aspects of illness behavior. For the group as a whole, somatizing patients were more likely to be older and female. Male somatizers differed from male nonsomatizers by showing greater disease conviction and affective disturbance and more readiness to acknowledge difficulties in their lives other than health problems. No differences were found between female somatizing and nonsomatizing patients. We conclude that, while male patients who somatize psychological distress may be distinguished from male nonsomatizers early in their illness, in terms of their illness behavior, these differences are not seen as early distinguishing characteristics in female patients who present to their General Practitioners with physical problems for which no organic cause can be established.

Note: Article I Pilowsky, Univ Adelaide, Royal Adelaide Hosp, Dept Psychiat, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia

Keyword(s): illness behavior; primary care; somatization; INTRACTABLE PAIN; PRIMARY CARE; DEPRESSION

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