The cognitive behavioural model of medically unexplained symptoms: A theoretical and empirical review

[Note: This is the publisher’s abstract of an article in Clinical Psychology Review.]

The article is a narrative review of the theoretical standing and empirical evidence for the cognitive behavioral model of medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) in general and for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in particular.

A literature search of Medline and Psychinfo from 1966 to the present day was conducted using MUS and related terms as search terms. All relevant articles were reviewed. The search was then limited in stages, by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), condition, treatment and type of trial.

Evidence was found for genetic, neurological, psychophysiological, immunological, personality, attentional, attributional, affective, behavioral, social and inter-personal factors in the onset and maintenance of MUS.

The evidence for the contribution of individual factors, and their autopoietic interaction in MUS (as hypothesized by the cognitive behavioral model) is examined.

The evidence from the treatment trials of cognitive behavioral therapy for MUS, CFS and IBS is reviewed as an experimental test of the cognitive behavioral models.

We conclude that a broadly conceptualized cognitive behavioral model of MUS suggests a novel and plausible mechanism of symptom generation and has heuristic value. We offer suggestions for further research.

Source: Clinical Psychology Review. 2007 Jul 17; Vol 27, Issue 6 [E-publication ahead of print] PMID: 17707564, by Deary V, Chalder T, Sharpe M. Institute of Health and Society, University of Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK; Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Psychological Medicine, London, UK;
Psychological Medicine and Symptoms Research School of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh, UK . [E-mail:

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (167 votes, average: 2.75 out of 5)

Leave a Reply