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The MMPI and chronic pain: The diagnosis of psychogenic pain


This study investigates the capacity of the MMPI to discriminate among groups of patients with different types of pain. When multivariate analysis of variance is used, the standard set of MMPI scales discriminates between acute pain and chronic pain but not between chronic pain of two different etiologies (surgicaliatrogenic vs. unknown). The three scales that discriminate acute from chronic pain patients are those in the “neurotic triad,” Hs, D, and Hy. The possibility that the unknown pain etiology group could be broken down into psychogenic pain and undetected somatogenic pathology subgroups was explored using cluster analysis. This procedure did not yield any group of patients who could be identified as having chronic pain of psychogenic origin. These results suggest that the MMPI is not a reliable tool for the differential diagnosis of chronic pain. It appears, however, that patterns of findings are partly contingent on population characteristics. Researchers should be cautious about generalizing to populations other than those from which samples are drawn.

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This research was supported in part by a grant from Roche Laboratories, Nutley, New Jersey, and the Anesthesiology Research Center, Grant No. GM1599-1-06, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.

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Cox, G.B., Chapman, C.R. & Black, R.G. The MMPI and chronic pain: The diagnosis of psychogenic pain. J Behav Med 1, 437–443 (1978).

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Key words

  • MMPI
  • chronic pain
  • psychogenic pain
  • multivariate analyses