The classification and nomenclature of ‘medically unexplained symptoms’: Conflict, performativity and critique
AbstractPersistent medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) – including the many syndromes that fall under this umbrella – involve a discrepancy between professional knowledge and lay experience and are often associated with latent or explicit dynamics of conflict. Although this conflictual dimension has been amply documented, little critical attention has been paid to how nomenclature and classification feed into the conflictual dynamic and are informed by it in turn. In this paper I engage with this question from a social-theoretical perspective informed by the concept of performativity. The paper offers a critical review of debates around the medical terminology in use, and a discussion of the alternative terminology developed by social scientists. Based on these, I argue that medical and social scientific discourse unwittingly collude in a disavowal of the psychological dimension of ‘MUS’. I then discuss the paradoxical character of this disavowal and suggest that it tends to perpetuate polemical modes of engagement around ‘MUS’. I conclude with suggestions on how further research might counteract this tendency.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.
Volume (Year): 75 (2012)
Issue (Month): 12 ()
Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/315/description#description
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Madden, Sue & Sim, Julius, 2006. "Creating meaning in fibromyalgia syndrome," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(11), pages 2962-2973, December.
- Rhodes, Lorna A. & McPhillips-Tangum, Carol A. & Markham, Christine & Klenk, Rebecca, 1999. "The power of the visible: the meaning of diagnostic tests in chronic back pain," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(9), pages 1189-1203, May.
- Banks, Jonathan & Prior, Lindsay, 2001. "Doing things with illness. The micro politics of the CFS clinic," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 11-23, January.
- Dumit, Joseph, 2006. "Illnesses you have to fight to get: Facts as forces in uncertain, emergent illnesses," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(3), pages 577-590, February.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wendy Shamier).
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.