Research abstract:


Medically unexplained symptoms/syndromes are common, highly distressing and are often associated with profound disability. One of the controversies surrounding this area relates to which umbrella term should be used to group such symptoms. The purpose of this research was to establish the preferences of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) for an umbrella term for medically unexplained symptoms.


A cross-sectional mixed methods survey design was used. Participants were asked to indicate their three most preferred terms out of a list of commonly used terms and to provide any extra comments. Frequency analysis was employed to look at the preferences of terms for each rank. Comments were analysed using principles of inductive thematic analysis.


Eighty-seven patients with CFS completed a self-report survey. The term “Persistent Physical Symptoms” was the most popular first choice term chosen by 20.7% of patients. Terms containing the word “physical” were consistently more likely to be chosen. Three main themes emerged from the thematic analysis: 1) Physical nature of the illness, 2) Stigma, and 3) Evaluation of the terms, giving a more in-depth understanding of the findings.


According to CFS patients, an umbrella term has to reflect the physical experience of MUS.

The most popular terms for medically unexplained symptoms: The views of CFS patients, by F Picariello, S Ali, R Moss-Morris, T Chalder in J Psychosom Res. 2015 May;78(5):420-6 [Epub 2015 Feb 27]

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