Correspondence In Press in response to Dimsdale et al paper: Somatic Symptom Disorder: An important change in DSM

Post #284 Shortlink:

Update: The four letters, below, published In Press in Journal of Psychosomatic Research are now published in the December 2013 issue:

Issue: Vol 75 | No. 6 | December 2013 | Pages 497-588

Update: Editorial by Michael Sharpe, DSM-5 Somatic symptom disorder Work Group member

Editorial: Somatic symptoms: beyond ‘medically unexplained’

BJP November 2013 203:320-321; doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.112.122523

Michael Sharpe FRCPsych, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX, UK.


Somatic symptoms may be classified as either ‘medically explained’ or ‘medically unexplained’ – the former being considered medical and the latter psychiatric. In healthcare systems focused on disease, this distinction has pragmatic value. However, new scientific evidence and psychiatric classification urge a more integrated approach with important implications for psychiatry.

A paper by DSM-5 Work Group members, Dimsdale JE, Creed F, Escobar J, Sharpe M, Wulsin L, Barsky A, Lee S, Irwin MR, Levenson J, titled Somatic Symptom Disorder: An important change in DSM, was published in the September issue of Journal of Psychosomatic Research.

There are four responses to this paper currently In Press. Subscription or payment is required to access the full text of these responses but the Dimsdale et al paper is now available free of charge:


The somatic symptom disorder in DSM 5 risks mislabelling people with major medical diseases as mentally ill

DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2013.09.005

Winfried Häuser

Department of Internal Medicine I, Klinikum Saarbrücken, Saarbrücken, Germany
Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, Technische Universität München, München, Germany

Frederick Wolfe

National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases, Wichita, USA

In Press Corrected Proof Received 2 September 2013; accepted 25 September 2013. published online 28 October 2013.

Dimsdale and co-authors present data on the reliability, validity, and prevalence of the new DSM 5 category “Somatic Symptom disorder” (SSD) defined by persistent somatic symptoms in conjunction with…


Diagnosis of somatic symptom disorder requires clinical judgment

DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2013.09.009

Joel E. Dimsdale

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, United States
[Ed: DSM-5 SSD Work Group Chair]

James Levenson

Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University, United States
[Ed: DSM-5 SSD Work Group Member]

In Press Corrected Proof Received 27 September 2013; accepted 27 September 2013. published online 01 November 2013.

The diagnosis of somatic symptom disorder (SSD) rests on the presence of 3 factors—1. distressing and impairing somatic symptoms, 2. that are persistent at least 6 months, and 3. that are associated…


A commentary on: Somatic symptom disorder: An important change in DSM


Winfried Rief

Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany

Available online 1 November 2013

The songs of praise about DSM-5 and its innovations are disseminated through the media, and consequently, a positive evaluation of the new category of somatic symptom and associated disorders was published…


Tradeoffs between validity and utility in the diagnosis of Somatic Symptom Disorder


Joel E. Dimsdale

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, United States
[Ed: DSM-5 SSD Work Group Chair]

James Levenson

Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University, United States
[Ed: DSM-5 SSD Work Group Member]

Available online 31 October 2013

We appreciate the opportunity of responding to Professor Rief’s thoughtful letter concerning the thinking that guided our workgroup’s proposals for Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD). When we started out…

in response to paper: [Download Free PDF from link on right of webpage.]

Somatic Symptom Disorder: An important change in DSM.

Dimsdale JE, Creed F, Escobar J, Sharpe M, Wulsin L, Barsky A, Lee S, Irwin MR, Levenson J.

J Psychosom Res. 2013 Sep;75(3):223-8. Epub 2013 Jul 25.

Abstract: [Free]

Full text:


Commentaries on Somatic Symptom Disorder published in 2013 journal papers

In the June 2013 edition of Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders, Allen Frances, MD, who chaired the Task Force for DSM-IV, discusses his concerns for the loosely defined DSM-5 category, Somatic Symptom Disorder, sets out his suggestions for revising the criteria prior to finalization, as presented to the SSD Work Group chair, in December 2012, and advises clinicians against using the new SSD diagnosis.

DSM-5 Somatic Symptom Disorder.

Frances A.

Department of Psychiatry, Duke University, Durham, NC.

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2013 Jun;201(6):530-1. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e318294827c. No abstract available.

PMID: 23719325


Commentary by Allen Frances, MD, and Suzy Chapman in the May 2012 issue of Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. The paper discusses the over-inclusive DSM-5 Somatic Symptom Disorder criteria and the potential implications for diverse patient groups. The paper concludes by advising clinicians not to use the new SSD diagnosis.

DSM-5 somatic symptom disorder mislabels medical illness as mental disorder.

Allen Frances¹, Suzy Chapman²

1 Department of Psychiatry, Duke University 2

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2013 May;47(5):483-4. doi: 10.1177/0004867413484525. No abstract available.

PMID: 23653063


The April 22, 2013 edition of Current Biology published a feature article on DSM-5 by science writer, Michael Gross, Ph.D. The article includes quotes from Allen Frances, MD, and Suzy Chapman on potential implications for patients for the application of the new DSM-5 Somatic Symptom Disorder. The article includes concerns for the influence of Somatic Symptom Disorder on proposals for a new ICD category – Bodily Distress Disorder – being field tested for ICD-11.

Current Biology 22 April, 2013 Volume 23, Issue 8

Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Current Biology, Volume  23, Issue  8, R295-R298, 22 April 2013



Has the manual gone mental?

Michael Gross

Full text:



In a BMJ opinion piece, published March 2013, Allen Frances, MD, opposes the new Somatic Symptom Disorder, discusses lack of specificity, data from the field trials, and advises clinicians to ignore this new category.

PDF for full text

The new somatic symptom disorder in DSM-5 risks mislabeling many people as mentally ill.

Frances A.

Allen Frances, chair of the DSM-IV task force

BMJ. 2013 Mar 18;346:f1580. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f1580. No abstract available.

PMID: 23511949

[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Somatic Symptom Disorder is also included in Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-Of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life (pp. 193-6): Allen Frances, William Morrow & Company (May 2013).

Also Essentials of Psychiatric Diagnosis: Responding to the Challenge of DSM-5 (Chapter 16): Allen Frances, Guilford Press (June 2013).


Further reading

Objection to proposal to insert DSM-5′s Somatic symptom disorder into ICD-10-CM Suzy Chapman, Public submission, ICD-9-CM/PCS Coordination and Maintenance Committee Meeting September 18-19, 2013

APA Somatic Symptom Disorder Fact Sheet APA DSM-5 Resources

Somatic Chapter Drops Centrality Of Unexplained Medical Symptoms Psychiatric News, Mark Moran, March 1, 2013

Somatic Symptoms Criteria in DSM-5 Improve Diagnosis, Care David J Kupfer, MD, Chair, DSM-5 Task Force, defends the SSD construct, Huffington Post, February 8, 2013

The new somatic symptom disorder in DSM-5 risks mislabeling many people as mentally ill Allen Frances, MD, BMJ 2013;346:f1580 BMJ Press Release PDF for full text

Somatic Symptom Disorder could capture millions more under mental health diagnosis Suzy Chapman, May 26, 2012

Mislabeling Medical Illness As Mental Disorder Allen Frances, MD, Psychology Today, DSM 5 in Distress, December 8, 2012

Why Did DSM 5 Botch Somatic Symptom Disorder? Allen Frances, MD, Psychology Today, Saving Normal, February 6, 2013

New Psych Disorder Could Mislabel Sick as Mentally Ill Susan Donaldson James, ABC News, February 27, 2013

Dimsdale JE. Medically unexplained symptoms: a treacherous foundation for somatoform disorders? Psychiatr Clin North Am 2011;34:511-3. [PMID: 21889675]


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