Social Stigma Towards People with Medically Unexplained Symptoms: the Somatic Symptom Disorder


PSYCHIATRIC QUARTERLY, vol.91, no.2, pp.349-361, 2020 (SSCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 91 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11126-019-09704-6
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, ASSIA, BIOSIS, EMBASE, MEDLINE, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Psycinfo
  • Page Numbers: pp.349-361
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


The majority of previous studies on mental health stigma have focused on medically explained symptoms and the studies on medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) have only assessed the consequences of internalized stigma. A new category in DSM 5, named as somatic symptom disorder (SSD), includes multiple somatic disorders with medically-explained or -unexplained somatic symptoms. This study aimed to test the effects of social stigma on people with SSD with MUS depending on the attribution model. In a class environment, 348 college students from different regions in Turkey were presented with a vignette on a person with SSD with MUS and asked to complete a survey including demographics and attitudes towards that person. Along the same lines with previous findings for other mental disorders, the path analysis using AMOS revealed that stigma-related cognitions (i.e., dependency, dangerousness and responsibility) shaped people's affective (i.e., anger and pity) and behavioral responses (i.e., social distance) to these people. The most important predictor of social distance was pity and the level of contact was not related to social distance. In conclusion, anti-stigma interventions towards SSD with MUS should involve building empathy towards these patients and educating people about this disorder contrary to the recommended interventions for other mental health disorders stressing the importance of contact.