Treatment

Functional disorders can be treated. Currently, the most effective treatments are graded exercise therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. In some cases, medication may have an effect as well. Intensive research into further improvement of the treatment of functional disorders is being carried out.

The sooner a treatment is initiated, the easier it will be to get better. Studies indicate that the development of a functional disorder can be turned around if it is caught in time. Several of the patients treated at the Research Clinic for Functional Disorders and Psychosomatics say that they probably would not have fallen this ill if they had had the knowledge they have now at an earlier stage.

Treatment

The treatment of functional disorders depends on the severity of the symptoms and for how long they have been present. The treatment can be divided into three levels:

  • Mild cases
    In mild or acute cases, only a few and often temporary functional symptoms are seen. In these cases, information about functional disorders, for example in combination with a GP's assessment, may be sufficient treatment.
  • Moderate cases
    In moderate cases, more symptoms are present, the patient is more affected and the condition is not just passing. In these cases, some GPs may help. A special training programme called the 'TERM model' has been developed in which GPs are trained in helping patients with functional disorders. If the GP cannot offer any treatment, it may be beneficial talking to a psychologist who is familiar with functional disorders. Furthermore, many patients will benefit from graded exercise therapy, a form of exercise in which you slowly increase the intensity of the training, thus increasing your strength and endurance. Some patients will benefit from supplementing the therapy with medication.
  • Chronic cases
    In chronic or severe cases, the patient has suffered from a functional disorder for more than two years. The disorder is affecting the patient to an extent where the quality of life or the ability to work is affected. In chronic cases, it may be necessary with treatment at a specialist centre. Currently, only three specialist centres exist in Denmark – one in Aarhus, one at Bispebjerg Hospital and one in Vordingborg. Together, these centres are able to treat approx. 500 patients per year. 

Effect of the treatment

Most patients will be helped by a specialised course of treatment. However, not everybody will recover. At the Research Clinic for Functional Disorders and Psychosomatics, we conduct research into new and better treatment forms. At present, scientific documentation shows that cognitive behavioural therapy, graded exercise therapy and antidepressant pills all have a good effect. There are also many indications that mindfulness has a healing effect.

At the Research Clinic for Functional Disorders and Psychosomatics in Aarhus, we treat approx. 200-250 patients suffering from severe chronic functional disorders every year. The treatment is based on group therapy and lasts for three months. Studies have shown that around 25% will recover or nearly recover, around 50% will get better and the last 25% will experience no or only little improvement. No patients will get worse from the treatment.

For some patients, the functional disorder is so severe or has lasted for so long that they won't regain their work ability, in spite of the treatment. However, for these patients, the treatment may increase their quality of life and make everyday life easier.

Ongoing studies indicate that the next 'generation' of cognitive therapy is even better and that certain forms of antidepressant pills may have an effect. This will be thoroughly tested in two new scientific projects that have just started.

Patient satisfaction

The patients are generally very satisfied with their course of treatment at the Research Clinic for Functional Disorders and Psychosomatics. The satisfaction also applies to those patients that we cannot help to recover.

You can read more about patient satisfaction at the Research Clinic for Functional Disorders and Psychosomatics here

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Revised 26.06.2014