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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 43 (2001) 3, 141 - 149

New research

Overstrain: A sea of complaints or a source of research?

A.J.M. Smith

background In literature many symptoms are related to overstrain or 'surmenage'. Moreover, these symptoms refer to many different diagnoses. This is in sharp contrast with the increasing sophistication of psychiatric classification, making the use of such a broad and rather vague concept of overstrain increasingly unsatisfactory.
aim Looking for possible primary and secundary symptoms of overstrain.
method Exploratory factor analysis on an overstrain complaints inventory.
results From our study a meaningful restriction to primary symptoms seems possible. In this more narrowed profile the emphasis is on a decreased cognitive and emotional reactivity in the processing of external information as a result of chronic stress.
conclusions This restricted profile asks for reconsideration on the low diagnostic status of 'surmenage'. It puts forward the relation between overstrain and psychopathology in general and allows for a more clearly defined relation between overstrain and some specific psychiatric disorders, such as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome or burnout syndrome. Our profile also has consequences for the structure of treatment programmes for overstrain or chronic stress syndromes.

keywords chronic stress complaints, overstrain, stress, surmenage