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Medically Unexplained Symptoms Disappear

Results from a research study led by a University of Hertfordshire academic for people with anxiety or depression and accompanying medically unexplained conditions have reported a significant reduction in symptoms.

The group approach is unique in integrating body and mind, using the language of the body as a form of counselling to help participants who have presented to the National Health Service with physical conditions which appear to have no medical explanation.

It forms part of a research project run by the Health and Human Sciences Research Institute, in conjunction with the Primary Care Trust (PCT).

According to Professor Helen Payne, principal investigator, who is currently recruiting for the next phase of this research, most of the participants in the groups had not had to see their GP since referral to the group and a quarter of them had a reduction in their medication or came off it completely.

“We have seen that since coming to the groups, participants have experienced significant changes in lifestyle, reduction in symptom distress, an increase in self-understanding and general increases in wellbeing,” said Professor Payne.

She also reported that symptoms presented by participants such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bladder problems, ME, panic attacks, joint pain or headaches, disappeared entirely or reduced once they joined one of the groups, enabling many of them to work or study again.

She commented: "Through recognising that if symptoms arise in the body then we need to work with and through the body, we have enabled many of the participants to resume work or study and to do things that they couldn’t do before. Our approach is very holistic using the inter-relationship of body with mind and we are gathering more and more evidence that it works."

Professor Payne and her team conduct three-monthly follow-ups to measure whether recovery from symptoms has been sustained.

For further information about the next course, please contact Professor Helen Payne, Tel: 01438 833440, email:

Helene Murphy | alfa
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