Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access

Travelling at a hundred miles an hour and not being able to get off: Examining a patient’s journey from medically unexplained symptoms

Kelvin Leung, Foluke Odeyale, Itoro Udo


Objectives: To understand a patient’s experience of treatment and recovery from medically unexplained tremors affecting hand and neck. The patient attended a Liaison Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic.

Method: A case study using interview method focusing on the nature and severity of illness; effects of symptoms; expectations of treatment; changes observed and the patient’s expectation of services.

Results: The patient was “extremely” stressed about his symptoms and “apprehensive” about attending mental health services. He experienced resolution of physical symptoms and improvements in mental wellbeing. Mental health treatment comprised medications and psychological therapies.

Conclusions: Persons experiencing medically unexplained symptoms deserve positive experiences of well-funded specialist healthcare.


Communication skills, functional disorders, medically unexplained symptoms, liaison psychiatry, patient experience, person-centered healthcare, post-traumatic stress disorder, quality of life, recovery, somatoform disorders

Full Text:



Nettleton, S., Watt, I., O’Malley, L. & Duffey, P. (2005). Understanding the narratives of people who live with medically unexplained illness. Patient Education and Counseling 56 (2) 205-210.

Nettleton, S. (2006). ‘I just want permission to be ill’: Towards a sociology of medically unexplained symptoms. Social Science & Medicine 62 (5) 1167-1178.

Schaefert, R., Hausteiner-Wiehle, C., Häuser, W., Ronel, J., Herrmann, M. & Henningsen, P. (2012). Non-Specific, Functional, and Somatoform Bodily Complaints. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International 109 (47) 803-813.

Stone, L. (2014). Blame, shame and hopelessness: medically unexplained symptoms and the ‘heartsink’ experience. Australian Family Physician 43 (4) 191-195.

Lee, K., Johnson, M., Harris, J. & Sundram, F. (2016). The resource utilisation of medically unexplained physical symptoms. SAGE Open Medicine 4, 1-7.

Chioqueta, A. & Stiles, T. (2004). Suicide Risk in Patients with Somatization Disorder. Crisis 25 (1) 3-7.

Barriball, K. & While, A. (1994). Collecting data using a semi-structured interview: a discussion paper. Journal of Advanced Nursing 19 (2) 328-335.

Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. 2nd edn., p. 472. New York: Guilford Press.

Heap, M. & Aravind, K. (2001). Hartland’s Medical and Dental Hypnosis. 4th edn., p. 544. London: Churchill Livingstone.

Stone, L. (2014). Managing the consultation with patients with medically unexplained symptoms: a grounded theory study of supervisors and registrars in general practice. BMC Family Practice 15, 192.

Weiland, A., Van de Kraats, R., Blankenstein, A., Van Saase, J., Van der Molen, H., Bramer, W., Van Dulmen, A. & Arends, L. (2012). Encounters between medical specialists and patients with medically unexplained physical symptoms; influences of communication on patient outcomes and use of health care: a literature overview. Perspectives on Medical Education 1 (4) 192-206.

Weiland, A., Blankenstein, A., Van Saase, J., Van der Molen, H., Jacobs, M., Abels, D., Köse, N., Van Dulmen, S., Vernhout, R. & Arends, L. (2015). Training Medical Specialists to Communicate Better with Patients with Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms (MUPS). A Randomized, Controlled Trial. PLoS ONE 10 (9) e0138342.

van Dessel, N., den Boeft, M., van der Wouden, J., Kleinstäuber, M., Leone, S., Terluin, B., Numans, M., van der Horst, H. & van Marwijk, H. (2014). Non-pharmacological interventions for somatoform disorders and medically unexplained physical symptoms (MUPS) in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (11): CD011142.

Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health. (2017). Guidance for Commissioners of Services for People with Medically Unexplained Symptoms. Available at: www.jcpmh-mus-guide.pdf.



  • There are currently no refbacks.