A European research agenda for somatic symptom disorders, bodily distress disorders, and functional disorders: Results of an estimate-talk-estimate delphi expert study

Christina M. van der Feltz-Cornelis, Iman Elfeddali, Ursula Werneke, Ulrik F. Malt, Omer Van den Bergh, Rainer Schaefert, Willem J. Kop, Antonio Lobo, Michael Sharpe, Wolfgang Söllner, Bernd Löwe, Anne Françoise Allaz, Gunta Ancane, Marie Bendix, Alexandre Berney, Jordi Blanch, Birgitte Boye, Chris Burton, Graça Cardoso, Pascal CathébrasFiammetta Cosci, Thomas Meinert Dantoft, Paul Enck, Silvia Ferrari, Per Fink, Sandra Fortes, Kurt Fritzsche, Lisbeth Frostholm, Franziska Geiser, Harald Gündel, Else Guthrie, Peter Henningsen, Paul Hüsing, Thomas Hyphantis, Josef Jenewein, Chris Kenedi, Monika Keller, Ksenya Khohlova, Sebastian Kohlmann, Konstantinos Kotsis, Claas Lahmann, Cédric Lemogne, Nadine Pohontsch, Angelika Weigel, Winfried Rief, Tim Olde Hartman, Urs Nater, Ivo Ivanov Natsov, Laurentiu Nedelcu, Michael Noll-Hussong

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Background: Somatic Symptom Disorders (SSD), Bodily Distress Disorders (BDD) and functional disorders (FD) are associated with high medical and societal costs and pose a substantial challenge to the population and health policy of Europe. To meet this challenge, a specific research agenda is needed as one of the cornerstones of sustainable mental health research and health policy for SSD, BDD, and FD in Europe. Aim: To identify the main challenges and research priorities concerning SSD, BDD, and FD from a European perspective. Methods: Delphi study conducted from July 2016 until October 2017 in 3 rounds with 3 workshop meetings and 3 online surveys, involving 75 experts and 21 European countries. EURONET-SOMA and the European Association of Psychosomatic Medicine (EAPM) hosted the meetings. Results: Eight research priorities were identified: (1) Assessment of diagnostic profiles relevant to course and treatment outcome. (2) Development and evaluation of new, effective interventions. (3) Validation studies on questionnaires or semi-structured interviews that assess chronic medical conditions in this context. (4) Research into patients preferences for diagnosis and treatment. (5) Development of new methodologic designs to identify and explore mediators and moderators of clinical course and treatment outcomes (6). Translational research exploring how psychological and somatic symptoms develop from somatic conditions and biological and behavioral pathogenic factors. (7) Development of new, effective interventions to personalize treatment. (8) Implementation studies of treatment interventions in different settings, such as primary care, occupational care, general hospital and specialty mental health settings. The general public and policymakers will benefit from the development of new, effective, personalized interventions for SSD, BDD, and FD, that will be enhanced by translational research, as well as from the outcomes of research into patient involvement, GP-patient communication, consultation-liaison models and implementation. Conclusion: Funding for this research agenda, targeting these challenges in coordinated research networks such as EURONET-SOMA and EAPM, and systematically allocating resources by policymakers to this critical area in mental and physical well-being is urgently needed to improve efficacy and impact for diagnosis and treatment of SSD, BDD, and FD across Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2018


  • Bodily distress disorder
  • Delphi study
  • EAPM
  • Europe
  • Expert survey
  • Functional disorders
  • Research agenda
  • Somatic symptom disorder


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