Symptom attribution and the recognition of psychiatric morbidity

Peter Bower, Robert West, Andre Tylee, Mark Hann

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Objective: Patients' interpretation of ambiguous physical symptoms may influence illness presentation in primary care. The present study sought to investigate the influence of symptom attribution style on the recognition of psychiatric morbidity by general practitioners (GPs). Methods: Patients consulting GPs completed assessments of attribution style and General Health Questionnaires (GHQs), while GPs provided independent ratings of psychiatric distress. Analysis examined the relationship between patient demographic variables, attribution style (using the Symptom Interpretation Questionnaire [SIQ]), and GP and GHQ assessments of patients' mental health. Results: The results indicate that severity of disorder and patient age were reliable predictors of recognition: normalizing and psychological attributions were additional predictors in some analyses, but their effects were inconsistent. Conclusions: The results provide some support for the role of symptom attribution in the recognition of psychiatric morbidity, but suggest that the predictive value of such attributions may be relatively modest. The SIQ may not be the optimum instrument for the measurement of attributions. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)157-160
    Number of pages3
    JournalJournal of psychosomatic research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2000


    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Diagnosis
    • Primary care
    • Symptom attribution


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