Exploring the impact of narrative interview participation in individuals with somatoform disorder and medically unexplained symptoms
(2016) Exploring the impact of narrative interview participation in individuals with somatoform disorder and medically unexplained symptoms, no. 78.
Within healthcare, there exists a notable number of individuals who are living with functionally hindering symptoms and conditions for which there is no medically identified cause or cure. While these conditions themselves evade observation and measurement, their presence leaves tangible limitations for the individual who experiences them. This may include feelings of guilt, abandonment by the healthcare service and social exclusion. Given these significant consequences, the personal experience of living with these unclear diagnoses is questionned. Narrative interviews, where people are given the opportunity to tell their story, can provide deep, valuable insights into someone's ideas, beliefs and feelings and how they may relate to their health. Therefore, a literature review identifies all narrative studies carried out with those who have medically unexplained symptoms. It is found that the stories people tell about their illness can be a powerful opportunity to reclaim dignity and explanation in light of uncertainty. Previous studies explore the relation of medical unexplained symptoms and events within the individual's life, including traumatic events from their past. The use of language and narrative structure is also considered significant as these are influenced by their surrounding social and cultural structures; for instance, the impact of the medical profession's imposed ideas of health and the impact this can have on patients' expectations. This suggests that the linguistic descriptions of symptoms may be cultural by nature. Overall, while previous narrative studies in this area explore the insights acquired, they have not yet investigated the use of narratives as a means of improving well-being. Given reports of narratives as effective therapeutic tools within other domains, a research study is proposed to explore the benefit narratives may have for those with medically unexplained symptoms. Since no information exists regarding the impact of undertaking a narrative interview, it is suggested that participants are interviewed following the experience. This is in the hope that participants may identify areas of lifestyle and wellbeing that are impacted by telling their story. These findings may then provide the basis for a future study which measures this impact.