BACKGROUND Somatisation is a common and frustrating clinical problem in primary care.
METHOD Using structural diagnoses and functional measures, we examined the prevalence and associated features of somatisation disorder defined by three current nosologies and an abridged construct in subjects using primary care services.
RESULTS Somatisation disorder, diagnosed according to the standard criteria, was found to have a very low prevalence (range 0.06-0.5%), while more than one-fifth of the sample (22%) met the criteria for the abridged diagnosis. There was poor agreement between succeeding versions of the DSM system for identifying cases of somatisation disorder, each system ending up with rather disparate sets of individuals as well as variable levels of psychopathology and disability.
CONCLUSIONS According to these data, standard somatisation disorder diagnoses add little to the prediction of disability/psychopathology beyond the contributions of an abridged construct of somatisation.