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Bodily Distress Syndrome (BDS)

Bodily Distress Syndrome (abbreviated 'BDS') is a new diagnosis which until now primarily has been used in connection with scientific work.

People suffering from Bodily Distress Syndrome experience many discomforts every day.

Typical symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Pain in the back, muscles, joints
  • Stomach problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

For some patients, the symptoms are so severe that they are unable to manage their job, and even simple daily chores like grocery shopping, washing up or vacuuming may seem insurmountable.

Some BDS patients have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic whiplash, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain disorder and others. These conditions may all be categorised as BDS subtypes.

How is BDS diagnosed?

Through examinations, interviews and the medical history, we can assess whether a patient meets the criteria for suffering from BDS. The GP assesses the complexity of the symptoms and whether the symptoms could be caused by a specific disease, e.g. whether joint pain can be explained by arthritis or whether a shortness of breath could be caused by asthma.

If the symptoms are better explained by another disease, they cannot be labelled BDS. The diagnosis is therefore exclusively made on the basis of the symptoms, their complexity and duration. Currently, no single examination exists, e.g. a blood test or a scan, which can tell us whether someone suffers from BDS.

Single-organ or multi-organ type?

BDS is divided into a 'single-organ' type and a 'multi-organ' type. The difference between the two lies in the number of bodily systems that are affected by the disorder. All symptoms do not need to be present at the same time.

Additionally, the patients must be so impeded by their symptoms that these affect their way of living. The majority of BDS patients manage far less than they were able to before they fell ill.

Even though all patients with severe BDS experience symptoms from several symptom groups, it may be the symptoms from a specific group that cause the most problems. Therefore, BDS patients may be facing a range of different problems in everyday life, depending on whether it is fatigue, back pain or diarrhoea that cause most distress. Even though there are many common features among BDS patients, the disorder has many faces.

At the Research Clinic for Functional Disorders and Psychosomatics, all patients involved in preliminary examinations are checked for BDS, psychiatric disorders and other diseases. We know that 1 in 3 BDS patients suffers from anxiety or depression. If you suffer from anxiety or depression and BDS, life becomes very difficult. Consequently, it is important that this is discovered so the patient can get the right treatment. 

Other names for BDS

We find patients with functional disorders in all of our hospital wards. Medical specialists have developed various diagnoses for patients with functional disorders. Therefore, some BDS patients experience that they get different diagnoses, which can be very confusing.

Some patients have been diagnosed with one or several of the following:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Chronic Pain Disorder
  • Somatisation
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
  • Chronic Acute Whiplash Associated Disorders

BDS: one diagnosis

Recent research indicates that the various diagnoses are subtypes of the same disorder. Studies have shown that patients often experience the same symptoms in spite of the different diagnoses. For example, a patient with fibromyalgia may also have stomach problems and suffers from fatigue. A patient with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may likewise experience muscle pain and rapid heartbeat. The many different diagnoses indicate that BDS is multi-factorial, as described in the above.

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Revised 2013.08.06