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Table 1 Proposed qualitative prognostic classification of symptoms based on “multiple symptoms, multiple systems and multiple times”

From: “Medically unexplained” symptoms and symptom disorders in primary care: prognosis-based recognition and classification

  Self-limiting symptoms Recurrent or persistent symptoms a Symptom disorder
Number of symptoms +
Few and related symptoms
Several symptoms (at same time or on different occasions)
Many symptoms concurrently and/or over time
Number of body systems b +
One body system
One or more body systems
Several body systems
Number of times +
Several - intermittent or low-level persistence
Many times or continuously
Risk of poor outcome Low Medium High
  1. a Both “Recurrent or Persistent Symptoms” and “Symptom Disorder” meet the three criteria “multiple symptoms, multiple systems, multiple times”; they vary in the extent to which these criteria are met
  2. b For research, rigid criteria may apply; for clinical practice (as the aim is prognosis rather than formal diagnosis), “number of body systems” is applied more flexibly, e.g., grouping of symptoms by digestive, cardiovascular, genitourinary, etc., systems