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Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2017 May-Jun;35 Suppl 105(3):43-49. Epub 2017 Feb 23.

Can health care providers recognise a fibromyalgia personality?

Author information

Department of Rheumatology, University of Coimbra, Portugal.
Department of Rheumatology & Clinical Immunology, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Department of Rheumatology, CEDOC, NOVA Medical School, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal.
CIIS, Institute of Health Sciences, Portuguese Catholic University, Lisbon, Portugal.
Department of Psychology, University of Coimbra, Portugal.
Department of Rheumatology, Antonius Hospital, Sneek, The Netherlands.
Sint Maartenskliniek, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychology, Lusíada University of North, Porto, Portugal.
Department of Rheumatology, Isala, Zwolle, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychology, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands.



To determine if experienced health care providers (HCPs) can recognise patients with fibromyalgia (FM) based on a limited set of personality items, exploring the existence of a FM personality.


From the 240-item NEO-PI-R personality questionnaire, 8 HCPs from two different countries each selected 20 items they considered most discriminative of FM personality. Then, evaluating the scores on these items of 129 female patients with FM and 127 female controls, each HCP rated the probability of FM for each individual on a 0-10 scale. Personality characteristics (domains and facets) of selected items were determined. Scores of patients with FM and controls on the eight 20-item sets, and HCPs' estimates of each individual's probability of FM were analysed for their discriminative value.


The eight 20-item sets discriminated for FM, with areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve ranging from 0.71-0.81. The estimated probabilities for FM showed, in general, percentages of correct classifications above 50%, with rising correct percentages for higher estimated probabilities. The most often chosen and discriminatory items were predominantly of the domain neuroticism (all with higher scores in FM), followed by some items of the facet trust (lower scores in FM).


HCPs can, based on a limited set of items from a personality questionnaire, distinguish patients with FM from controls with a statistically significant probability. The HCPs' expectation that personality in FM patients is associated with higher levels for aspects of neuroticism (proneness to psychological distress) and lower scores for aspects of trust, proved to be correct.

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