Publication details

What is it like to live with medically unexplained physical symptoms? A qualitative meta-summary

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Year of publication 2022
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Psychology & Health
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Web article - open access
Keywords Medically unexplained physical symptoms; patient experience; meta-summary
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Description Medically unexplained physical symptoms (MUPS) are a frequent phenomenon. Understanding adults and adolescents’ lived experience with MUPS is essential for providing adequate care, yet a rigorous synthesis of existing studies is missing. Objective: This study aimed to summarize findings from primary qualitative studies focused on adults’ and adolescents’ experience of living with MUPS. Design: Qualitative studies were searched in the PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, and Medline databases and manually. A total of 23 resources met the inclusion criteria and were subjected to a qualitative meta-summary. Results: Eight themes were found across the set of primary studies, namely, the need to feel understood, struggling with isolation, ‘sense of self’ in strain, facing uncertainty, searching for explanations, ambivalence about diagnosis, disappointed by healthcare, and active coping. Conclusion: The eight themes represent the core struggles adults’ and adolescents’ with MUPS face in their lives, psychologically and socially. Although these themes appear to be universal, the analysis also revealed considerable variability of experience in terms of expectations from healthcare professionals, attitude towards formal diagnoses, ability to cope with the illness, or potential to transform the illness experience into personal growth. Addressing this diversity of needs represents a significant challenge for the healthcare system.
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