A patient's presenting symptom may accord readily with a total clinical picture indicative of a known disease entity. When the relation is not so clear, the physician may consider whether or not the symptom is "functional," that is, a manifestation of the patient's emotional state. In assessing this possibility, the emotional and interpersonal circumstances at the time of the symptom's onset, the meaning of the symptom to the patient, and any advantage derived by him from the symptom should be examined. This information may be very helpful in medical management of the case, regardless of the ultimate nature of the symptom.
Sullivan PR. Is This Symptom Functional? JAMA. 1963;185(10):745–747. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03060100025010
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