Many specialty-specific functional somatic syndrome diagnoses exist to
describe people who are experiencing so-called medically unexplained
symptoms. Although cognitive–behavioural therapy can be effective in the
management of such syndromes, it is rarely available. A
cognitive–behavioural therapy suitable for group treatment of people with
different functional somatic syndromes could address this problem.
To test the efficacy of a cognitive–behavioural therapy (Specialised
Treatment for Severe Bodily Distress Syndromes, STreSS) designed for
patients with a range of severe functional somatic syndromes.
A randomised controlled trial (clinicaltrials.gov, NCT00132197) compared
STreSS (nine 3.5 h sessions over 4 months, n = 54) with
enhanced usual care (management by primary care physician or medical
specialist, n = 66). The primary outcome was improvement
in aggregate score on subscales of the 36-item Short Form Health Survey
(physical functioning, bodily pain and vitality) at 16 months.
Participants receiving STreSS had a greater improvement on the primary
outcome (adjusted mean difference 4.0, 95% CI 1.4–6.6, P
= 0.002) and on most secondary outcomes.
In the management of functional somatic syndromes, a
cognitive–behavioural group treatment was more effective than enhanced