The Effects of General Practitioners’ Verbal Behaviour on Anxiety Levels of Patients with Medically Unexplained Symptoms.

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Objective Patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) may feel dissatisfied with their General practitioners’ (GPs’) care. They often feel misunderstood or anxious about their health outcomes. Previous research suggests that MUS patients have a higher need for emotional support than patients with explained symptoms (MES). The current study investigated whether GPs’ verbal behaviour (informative vs. affective) had an effect on patients’ anxiety. Method A retrospective semantic content analysis was carried out on 50 recorded consultations of MUS and MES patients with GPs. GPs’ utterances during the consultation were coded as informative or affective using the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS). Patients’ anxiety was measured with an abbreviated State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Results GPs showed more verbal attentiveness with MUS patients than they did with MES patients. They also gave more direct instructions to MES patients than they did with MUS patients. The results of the current study showed no direct relation between affective behaviour and changes in reported anxiety for MUS/MES patients. There was, however, a significant relationship between the giving of direct instructions and patients’ reported anxiety. Conclusions Patients who receive direct instructions reported lower levels of anxiety, mirroring the findings of Stortenbeker et al. (2018). Contrary to what was expected, the current study reported no relation between affective behaviour and lower levels of anxiety.
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