We have previously blogged on this site about Pain Disorders, a psychiatric term, and their interaction or relationship with Pain Syndromes which fall within the realm of pain medicine. The distinction can often be confusing. Many of our clients have been diagnosed as suffering a pain disorder, either independently or in conjunction with a pain syndrome.
Whilst the term “Pain Disorder” is still in common usage as an “umbrella” term, within the psychiatric profession there have been some recent changes whereby the specific diagnosis of a Pain Disorder has been re-classified as a “Somatic Symptom Disorder”.
The changes have been made in the 5th edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders” (known as DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The APA have made the changes “to eliminate overlap across the somatoform disorders and clarify their boundaries. The changes better reflect the complex interface between mental and physical health”.
A key change in the criteria is that a diagnosis of a Somatoform Symptom Disorder does not require that an individual’s somatic symptoms are unexplained. This was a key feature for many conditions in the earlier edition (DSM-4), but under DSM-5 it is irrelevant whether symptoms are associated with another medical condition. The DSM-5 description states that it is not appropriate to diagnose individuals with a mental disorder solely because a medical cause cannot be demonstrated and, whether or not the somatic symptoms are medically explained, the individual would still have to meet the rest of the criteria in order to receive a diagnosis of Somatic Symptom Disorder.
It remains to be seen how these changes will affect people suffering medically unexplained symptoms. To the layman it appears that a diagnosis of Somatic Symptom Disorder will be more difficult than the former diagnosis of Pain Disorder.
Should you have any questions arising out of this article, you are welcome to contact us on 01225 462871 for an informal and confidential discussion with one of our team of specialist solicitors. Alternatively, please contact us using the contact form and we will be happy to call you.