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BMC Psychol. 2015 Mar 15;3(1):7. doi: 10.1186/s40359-015-0064-5. eCollection 2015.

Chronic pain in multi-traumatized outpatients with a refugee background resettled in Norway: a cross-sectional study.

Author information

1
Department of Public Health, Hedmark University College, Elverum, Norway ; Innlandet Hospital Trust, PO Box 104, N-2381 Brumunddal, Norway.
2
Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, Oslo, Norway ; Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
3
R & D Department, Mental Health Services, Akershus University Hospital, Oslo, Norway ; Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
4
Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway ; Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
5
Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, Oslo, Norway ; Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Eastern and Southern Norway, Oslo, Norway.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Traumatized refugees often report significant levels of chronic pain in addition to posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and more information is needed to understand pain in refugees exposed to traumatic events. This study aimed to assess the frequency of chronic pain among refugee psychiatric outpatients, and to compare outpatients with and without chronic pain on trauma exposure, psychiatric morbidity, and psychiatric symptom severity.

METHODS:

We conducted a cross-sectional study of sixty-one psychiatric outpatients with a refugee background using structured clinical diagnostic interviews to assess for traumatic events [Life Events Checklist (LEC)], PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and complex PTSD [Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV PTSD Module (SCID-PTSD) and Structured Interview for Disorders of Extreme Stress (SIDES)], chronic pain (SIDES Scale VI) and psychiatric symptoms [M.I.N.I. International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.)]. Self-report measures were used to assess symptoms of posttraumatic stress [Impact of Event Scale-revised (IES-R)], depression and anxiety [Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL-25)] and several markers of acculturation in Norway.

RESULTS:

Of the 61 outpatients included, all but one reported at least one chronic pain location, with a mean of 4.6 locations per patient. Chronic pain at clinical levels was present in 66% of the whole sample of outpatients, and in 88% of the outpatients with current PTSD diagnosis. The most prevalent chronic pain locations were head (80%), chest (74%), arms/legs (66%) and back (62%). Women had significantly more chronic pain locations than men. Comorbid PTSD and chronic pain were found in 57% of the outpatients. Significant differences were found between outpatients with and without chronic pain on posttraumatic stress, psychological distress, and DESNOS severity.

CONCLUSIONS:

Chronic pains are common in multi-traumatized refugees in outpatient clinics in Norway, and are positively related to symptomatology and severity of psychiatric morbidity. The presence of chronic pain, as well as comorbid chronic pain and PTSD, in psychiatric outpatients with a refugee background call for an integrated assessment and treatment for both conditions.

KEYWORDS:

Chronic pain; Comorbid chronic pain and PTSD; DESNOS; Resettled refugees; Traumatized refugees

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