Medically unexplained symptoms—a perspective from general practitioners in the developing world

Muhammad Ishrat Husain, Venugopal Duddu, Muhammad Omair Husain, Imran Bashir Chaudhry, Raza Rahman, Nusrat Husain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, we explored the attitudes toward Medically Unexplained Symptoms (MUS) of 500 general practitioners (GPs) in Karachi, Pakistan. Using a questionnaire previously developed by Reid et al. (2001), we aimed to investigate whether GPs' attitudes toward medically unexplained symptoms are similar to those of GPs in the developed world.

Five hundred GPs on the database of primary care centers at the Pakistan Institute of Learning and Living in Karachi were all sent a covering letter explaining the purpose of the survey with a case vignette, a questionnaire, and a stamped addressed envelope. One month later, non-respondents received a telephone call from an investigator to remind them of the study.

Of the 429 respondents, 68.5% (294) were male and 31.5% (135) female. Although 80.2% of respondents felt that the main role of GPs was to provide support and reassurance, 76.9% of respondents also agreed that GPs had a role in referring patients with MUS for further investigations to identify a cause. Two hundred and four (47.55%) respondents agreed that somatization was useful concept, only 146 (34.03%) felt that there was effective treatment for it.

For the most part, Pakistani GPs' attitudes toward MUS are not very different to those of their counterparts in the West. Both agree that the GP has an important role in providing reassurance and counseling. However, our survey also shows that Pakistani GPs are less likely to place emphasis on an underlying psychiatric diagnosis and tend to focus on looking for an underlying physical cause.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2011


  • Pakistan
  • developing countries
  • general practice
  • somatoform disorders


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