Background: Psychiatric assessment of somatization (the tendency to experience and communicate psychological distress in the form of physical symptoms and to seek medical help for them) currently rests on DSM criteria. An alternative diagnostic and conceptual framework has been proposed by an international group of psychosomatic investigators. The aim of this study was to compare these new criteria (Diagnostic Criteria for Psychosomatic Research, DCPR) with DSM-IV in a population where a high prevalence of psychosocial problems is expected (functional gastrointestinal disorders, FGID). Method: One hundred and ninety consecutive patients with FGID in a tertiary care center were assessed according to DSM-IV and DCPR criteria. Results: The number of the 12 DCPR diagnoses was almost double that of DSM diagnoses. Only 9% of the patients were not identified by DCPR criteria, whereas this occurred in 25% of patients using DSM criteria. While patients who were given a DSM diagnosis frequently had additional DCPR diagnoses, many patients with DCPR syndromes did not fulfill any DSM criteria. Four DCPR syndromes appeared to be particularly frequent and accounted for almost three quarters of the total diagnoses (alexithymia, persistent somatization, functional symptoms secondary to a psychiatric disorder, demoralization). Conclusions: The joint use of DSM and DCPR criteria was found to improve the identification of psychological factors in FGID. The results may pave the way for changes in DSM classification of somatoform disorders.
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