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BACKGROUND: Somatization is a common problem in primary care and often presents puzzling problems for the family physician. A family or contextual approach is often useful in investigating and treating refractory symptoms. CASE PRESENTATION: A 63 year-old patient presented to his family physician with recurrent episodes of syncope, weakness and various other somatic symptoms. Lengthy clinical investigations found no organic pathological findings but a brief family assessment by the family physician revealed that the patient's wife was the "hidden" patient. Successful treatment of the patient's wife led to full recovery for both. CONCLUSIONS: Exploration and treatment of the family context may often hold the key to the solution of difficult problems in somatizing patients.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Fam Pract

Publication Date





Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic, Depressive Disorder, Family Health, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Somatoform Disorders, Spouses