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Prevalence and Type of Functional Somatic Complaints in Patients with First-episode Depression

Objective: To study the prevalence and type of functional somatic complaints in patients with first episode depression.

Methods: A total of 164 patients attending the outpatient department of a general hospital psychiatric unit were evaluated using the Patient Health Questionnaire–15 (PHQ-15) and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS).

Results: More than half of the sample were male (n = 85; 52%) and most of the subjects were married (n = 128; 78%). The mean (standard deviation) HDRS score was 19.9 (5.4). All patients had at least 1 functional somatic complaint, and that the mean (range) number of functional somatic complaints per patient on the PHQ-15 was 8 (1-15). The most common functional somatic complaints included feeling tired or having little energy (93%); trouble sleeping (80%); nausea, gas and indigestion (68%); headache (68%); pain in arms, legs, or joints (66%); and feeling the heart racing (65%). Total PHQ-15 scores indicated the presence of moderate-to-severe severity of functional somatic complaints. Back pain, as well as pain in arms, legs, or joints, were found to be more common in females. The number and severity of functional somatic complaints did not differ significantly in relation to other socio-demographics (locality, marital status, age, education, income) and clinical variables (duration, physical co-morbidity, and atypical features).

Conclusion: Functional somatic complaints are quite prevalent in subjects with first-episode depression.

Hence, clinicians should routinely evaluate patients with depression for these symptoms.

Key words: Depression; Somatoform disorders

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