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J Nerv Ment Dis. 1986 May;174(5):295-303.

DSM-III diagnoses in chronic pain. Confusion or clarity?


The assessment of patients with chronic pain is receiving increasing attention by psychiatrists. Recent publications have put forward the concept of the "pain-prone disorder" as a variant of depressive illness. This study describes a series of 50 consecutive patients with chronic pain in terms of the five axes of the DSM-III nosology. Diagnoses were made after a 90- to 120-minute psychiatric interview, and a check on diagnostic reliability was made on a small subsample. Psychological factors affecting physical condition were diagnosed in 34% and dysthymic disorder was diagnosed in 28%, while major depression, psychogenic pain disorder, somatization disorder, and anxiety disorders were each respectively diagnosed in 8%. Only 6% had no diagnosis on axis I and 4% had no diagnosis on axis III. Personality disorder was diagnosed in 40%, and traits of dependence, compulsiveness, and anxiety were common. Overall, the patients had experienced a high degree of psychosocial stress with fair to poor adaptive functioning. The notion of chronic pain as a variant of depressive disease is questioned on the basis of these findings. The author suggests that although pain-proneness is a useful psychodynamic concept, the case for its establishment as a new psychobiological disorder is not proven. Furthermore, the concepts of pain-proneness, depression, and psychogenic pain have become confused. The author argues that the current classification is adequate to deal with the varieties of depression associated with chronic pain and that psychogenic pain disorder should be remerged with conversion disorder for the sake of clarity.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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