More evidence that illness name shapes attitudes, respect
September 15, 2012
Article [in Dutch]:
How do patients interpret terms for medically unexplained symptoms?
- Source: Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, 2012
By EM Kingma, et al
[Note: Even though the researchers didn’t include a really medical sounding option (such as myalgic encephalomyelitis) in comparing attitudes toward names for ME/CFS, they still found that the name, especially one suggesting a mental cause, strongly shapes attitudes.]
Objective: To investigate how primary care patients interpret the existing terminology used to describe medically unexplained symptoms; to contribute to the current academic discussion on unequivocal terminology.
Design: Descriptive cohort study.
Methods: We approached patients in the waiting rooms of two general medical practices in the city of Groningen and in the province of Drenthe.
Based on a fictitious case, the patients were asked to assign connotations to a number of possible diagnoses for medically unexplained tiredness.
The patients could choose from seven predetermined connotations. Among the diagnoses for medically unexplained tiredness were:
• 'Functional fatigue',
• 'Chronic fatigue syndrome',
• 'Psychosomatic tiredness',
• And 'medically unexplained tiredness'.
From the seven connotations, we labeled three connotations as being negative.
When patients gave at least one negative connotation to a possible diagnosis, the diagnosis was labeled as 'offensive'.
Results: A total of 184 patients participated in the study.
From the alternative diagnoses for medically unexplained tiredness, 'psychosomatic tiredness' had the most negative connotations: at least one negative connotation for 65 (35%) patients.
'Chronic fatigue syndrome' and 'functional fatigue' had the fewest negative connotations: at least one negative connotation for respectively 17 (9%) and 24 (13%) patients.
Conclusion: The terms 'chronic fatigue syndrome' and 'functional fatigue' were less offensive.
Our results could imply that terms for medically unexplained tiredness that refer less to a psychological basis are most acceptable for the patient.
Source: Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, 2012;156(37):A4541. PMID:22971428, by Kingma EM, Moddeljonge R, Rosmalen JG. Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Universitair Medisch Centrum Groningen, Interdisciplinair Centrum Psychopathologie en Emotieregulatie (ICPE), Groningen, Netherlands.
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