The Elephant in the Room Series Two: Use of “Somatoform Disorders” and “Functional somatic syndromes”


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The Elephant in the Room Series Two: Use of “Somatoform Disorders” and “Functional somatic syndromes”

Two good examples of the use of the terms “Somatoform disorders”, “Chronic multiple functional somatic symptoms” and “Functional somatic syndromes” in relation to chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis in UK medical press and medical journals:

1] In December, last year, Pulse magazine ran an article by Dr Christopher Bass on the so-called “somatoform disorders” in which chronic fatigue syndrome, IBS and fibromyalgia were cited. The ME Association and others responded.  The ME Association’s response can be read here

See previous ME agenda posting, 26 December 2008:

Dr Chris Bass (PULSE somatoform disorders article) and UNUM


2] In 2002, the BMJ published two reviews in their series Clinical review: ABC of psychological medicine:

Chronic multiple functional somatic symptoms: Christopher Bass, Stephanie May


Functional somatic symptoms and syndromes: Richard Mayou, Andrew Farmer

which listed the following under

“Some common functional symptoms and syndromes”

  • “Muscle and joint pain (fibromyalgia)
  • Low back pain
  • Tension headache
  • Atypical facial pain
  • Chronic fatigue (myalgic encephalomyelitis)
  • Non-cardiac chest pain
  • Palpitation
  • Non-ulcer dyspepsia
  • Irritable bowel
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia”

The BMJ ABC of psychological medicine series were later published in a monograph which is still in print:

ABC of Psychological Medicine (ABC Series)
by Richard Mayou (Editor), Michael Sharpe (Editor), Alan Carson (Editor)

2003, Paperback, 72 pages
ISBN-10: 0727915568
ISBN-13: 978-0727915566

Links for full texts of the Bass, May; Mayou, Farmer BMJ ABC Series reviews are included in the 27 December 2008 ME agenda posting:

Selected papers co-authored by Dr Christopher Bass

In 1995, Richard Mayou co-edited:

Treatment of Functional Somatic Symptoms
Edited by Richard Mayou, Christopher Bass and Michael Sharpe

1995, Hardback, 472 pages
ISBN-13: 9780192624994
ISBN-10: 0192624997


Richard Mayou and Michael Sharpe were members of the internationl CISSD Project, co-ordinated by Dr Richard Sykes between 2003 and 2007, and administered by UK patient organisation Action for M.E. Prof Michael Sharpe was the CISSD Project’s UK Chair; Prof Kurt Kroenke was the CISSD Project’s international chair.

In May 2005, in collaboration with Kurt Kroenke et al, Mayou and Sharpe, published a review in which the authors set out their proposals for revisions to the so-called “Somatoform Disorders” for DSM-V.

FREE Review   Mayou R, Kirmayer LJ, Simon G, Kroenk K, Sharpe M: Somatoform disorders: time for a new approach in DSM-V. Am J Psychiatry 2005 May;162(5):847-855.


Related document: DSM-V and ICD-11 Directory Downloaded here in MS Word format:

Related article: Mind over body? 13 March 2009, Clare Wilson: Interview with Professor Simon Wessely