Functional Somatic Symptoms and Somatization: Person-centered Approach to Understanding their Relationships

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Ariel Falcoff


Background: Despite the visible points of overlapping between the psychopathologic concepts of "somatization" and "somatoform disorders" with those of "functional symptoms" and "somatic syndromes" of general medicine, there is little literature which clarifies their relationships, making it difficult to formulate common grounds for work between psychiatry and the rest of medicine. Objectives: The purpose of this article is to review and critically analyze current knowledge on the subject, in search for conceptual links between different paradigms involving the underlying phenomena, proposing present and future lines of work according to the basic concepts of the Person Centered Medicine. Methodology: A wide ranging review and critical analysis of the literature on these subjects was conducted, trying to explore the relationship and integration of different paradigms according to the MCP framework and an outline of the author´s current research. Results: A need was found to establish transdisciplinary concepts which leave aside the particular visions of each paradigm, in search for links which may integrate different insights, considering the person as a whole. Therefore, it is essential to analyze carefully the phenomenon from various points of view to elucidate wider conceptualizations so as to reformulate this spectrum of phenomena from an integrative perspective. The possibility of the existence of a “general factor”, both present in the so-called “functional” disorder of general medicine, and in those that in psychopathology are grouped as somatization, is suggested. This general factor could be represented by certain personality dimensions and psychic representations encompassed by complex context variables. Conclusions: It would be valuable to continue with research of this phenomena structure as well as to look for strategies to benefit from the theoretical findings in the health care field, according to the proposals of Person Centered Medicine.

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