Abstract: Subjective health complaints, sensitization, and sustained cognitive activation (stress)

J Psychosom Res. 2004 Apr;56(4):445-8.

Eriksen HR, Ursin H.

Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, University of Bergen, Jonas Lies vei 91, N-5009 Bergen, Norway.

INTRODUCTION: This review argues that “subjective health complaints” is a better and neutral term for “unexplained medical symptoms.” The most common complaints are musculoskeletal pain, gastrointestinal complaints and “pseudoneurology” (tiredness, sleep problems, fatigue, and mood changes). These complaints are common in the general population, but for some these complaints reach a level that requires care and assistance.

THEORETICAL ASSUMPTIONS: We suggest that these complaints are based on sensations from what in most people are normal physiological processes. In some individuals these sensations become intolerable. In some cases it may signal somatic disease, in most cases not. Cases without somatic disease, or with minimal somatic findings, occur under diagnoses like burnout, epidemic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic musculoskeletal pain, chronic low back pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. These complaints are particularly common in individuals with low coping and high levels of helplessness and hopelessness.

CONCLUSION: The psychobiological mechanisms for this is suggested to be sensitization in neural loops maintained by sustained attention and arousal.

PMID: 15094030 [PubMed – in process]

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