ABSTRACT: Contemporary psychiatric classifications have not proved to be useful in the understanding and care of people with physical illness. Distress syndromes are common, but classifications fail to differentiate syndromes relevantly. We sought to take a fresh look at the common distress syndromes in the medically ill.
312 medical inpatients were interviewed using a structured psychiatric interview [the Monash Interview for Liaison Psychiatry (MILP)] to elicit the presence of mood, anxiety and somatoform symptoms. A previously reported examination of these data using latent trait analysis revealed the dimensions of demoralization, anhedonia, autonomic anxiety, somatoform symptoms and grief. Patients were scored on these dimensions and, on the basis of these, subjected to cluster analysis. Derived classes were compared on a range of demographic and clinical data including psychiatric diagnosis.
Six classes were found, distinguished by general levels of distress (measured by demoralization, autonomic anxiety and somatoform symptoms), anhedonia and grief. The most distressed groups were Demoralization and Demoralized Grief. Anhedonic Depression showed moderate levels of distress but the highest level of social dysfunction. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) categories of mood disorders did not follow any particular pattern other than reflecting severity of distress. The classes of high distress (Demoralization and Demoralized Grief) were significantly associated with younger age, past history of psychiatric treatment, low Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores over the previous 12 months and DSM-IV somatoform disorders. Patients with Demoralized Grief tended to acknowledge their illness as a significant and relevant stressor. Patients with Demoralization identified other stressors as significant.
Concepts of demoralization, anhedonia and grief differentiate between important clinical syndromes and have informed the development of a taxonomy of common distress syndromes in the medically ill. Research is required to further explore the validity and utility of these concepts.
Journal of Psychosomatic Research 05/2003; 54(4):323-30. · 3.30 Impact Factor