Institute of Education


Verbal and nonverbal communication of medically unexplained symptoms

16 July 2019, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Hospital patient in bed

Agnieszka Sowińska presents her work on the usefulness of verbal and nonverbal communication to understand the needs of patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) in primary care.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to





Sarah Lester


SSRU Seminar Room
18 Woburn Square

Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are conditions where symptoms persist but cannot be attributed to disease and their cause remains contested. As symptoms are invisible and unnamed, MUS is very low in the hierarchy of illnesses, and the presence of bodily symptoms is often related to psychological distress.

Patients with MUS create particular communicative challenges for primary care providers, as their illness stories have been shown to resonate with chaos narratives, lacking coherence and a chronological development of symptoms.

In this talk Agnieszka demonstrates how patients with MUS struggle with medical inadequacy in speech and gesture, how they negotiate their identity and seek to legitimize their symptoms, and how they frequently fail to do so. Verbal and nonverbal communication of MUS during medical encounters can not only yield diagnostic information, but may also provide insight into patient’s management of symptoms. 

Booking for this event is not required. Follow the conversation on Twitter at #SSRUseminar


About the Speaker

Agnieszka Sowińska

Agnieszka Sowińska is Assistant Professor in the English Department of Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland and is currently working at Escuela de Inglés, Universidad Católica del Norte in Antofagasta, Chile. She has been collaborating with GPs within the European General Practice Research Network (EGPRN), Research Centre for Cognitive Science at the University of Talca (Chile) and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Modern Technologies at Nicolaus Copernicus University (Torun, Poland). She is also a member of the International Pragmatics Association (IPrA).