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Broad and learned
clinical background

Gut Reaction #13: Functional disorders

Functional disorders concern both mind and body – a patient’s emotional and psychological state can affect, or create, physical symptoms. These symptoms are absolutely genuine but are not due to an underlying physical abnormality or disease.

Therefore patients may display dramatic symptoms – abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, headaches and chronic fatigue – but these are symptoms related to no identified disease or physical cause. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has long been considered a functional disorder due to a perceived impact of social and psychological factors on the somatic disease process. Decades of research has shown that stress can be an aggravating factor for IBS. 

Suzanne O’Sullivan’s book, It’s All In Your Head, examines functional disorders, showing it to be a ‘serious disease of modern society: misunderstood, misdiagnosed and surrounded by fire’. Doctor O’Sullivan, a consultant neurologist of over 10 years, wrote the book to shine a light on functional disorders, illuminating how common they are in a bid to raise awareness and to help patients to understand their symptoms. Fundamentally, her findings were that symptoms stemming from functional disorders must be treated as seriously as issues rooted in physical illness. 

Dr. O’Sullivan states that as a society we must all accept the power of the mind over the body and understand that there is no quick or single solution for this form of illness: “To look for one is akin to looking for the cure of unhappiness. There is no single answer because there is no single cause.” 

For more information about functional disorders or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Harris.

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