Bodily Distress Syndrome (BDS) as a new research concept for adolescents with functional somatic symptoms

Author: Elske Hogendoorn.

Functional somatic symptoms are physical symptoms that cannot be fully attributed to a biomedical cause and may arise in the absence or presence of a chronic medical disease. Persistent functional somatic symptoms occur in various medical domains and are given a variety of diagnostic classifications, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or somatic symptom disorder.

In an attempt to introduce a term for research settings that would capture various functional somatic symptom conditions, the concept Bodily Distress Syndrome (BDS) had been introduced previously. A unifying concept in research could facilitate communication across medical domains and be used for screening purposes through a corresponding instrument. The BDS concept has been verified in adults, but not yet in adolescents. A recent study was carried out to evaluate the utility of the BDS concept and the corresponding BDS-25 checklist in adolescents (Münker et al., 2022)

In total, 2542 adolescents aged 16-17 years from the general population participated in the study. To assess functional somatic symptoms, they filled out the BDS-25 checklist. This checklist contains 25 physical symptoms. For each symptom, participants indicated to what extent they were bothered by it over the past 12 months. In addition, other clinical (overall health, depression, anxiety, illness worry, presence of a chronic medical condition) and demographic variables were measured.

The results show that the quality of the BDS-25 checklist is satisfactory in an adolescent sample. The same four clusters of symptoms were found as in adults, namely: cardiopulmonary (e.g. hyperventilation), gastrointestinal (e.g. abdominal pain), musculoskeletal (e.g. backache), and general symptoms (e.g. dizziness). Participants with more severe BDS symptoms reported a lower overall health and more depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and illness worry. Moreover, more severe BDS symptoms were reported by adolescents that were girls, had lower educated parents, parents that were not living together, or had a lower household income. Also, when a chronic medical condition was present, more severe BDS symptoms were reported.

The authors suggest that the BDS-25 checklist may be used as an accessible assessment tool for functional somatic symptoms in adolescents. Although psychological features are currently not included in the BDS-25 checklist, it could be of great advantage in an effort to mirror currently used clinical diagnoses. Further research should establish the clinical relevance of the BDS-25 checklist, by exploring, for instance, whether the instrument can be employed as a screening tool for clinical cases.

Elske Hogendoorn is PhD student at the Interdisciplinary Centre Psychopathology and Emotion Regulation (ICPE), University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.

Münker L, Rimvall MK, Frostholm L, Ørnbøl E, Wellnitz KB, Rosmalen J, Rask CU. Can the bodily distress syndrome (BDS) concept be used to assess functional somatic symptoms in adolescence? J Psychosom Res. 2022 Dec;163:111064.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top