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Post-traumatic stress disorder among patients with chronic pain and chronic fatigue

  • P. ROY-BYRNE (a1), W. R. SMITH (a1), J. GOLDBERG (a1), N. AFARI (a1) and D. BUCHWALD (a1)...


Background. Fibromyalgia (FM), a chronic pain condition of unknown aetiology often develops following a traumatic event. FM has been associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression disorder (MDD).

Method. Patients seen in a referral clinic (N=571) were evaluated for FM and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) criteria. Patients completed questionnaires, and underwent a physical examination and a structured psychiatric evaluation. Critical components of the diagnostic criteria of FM (tender points and diffuse pain) and CFS (persistent debilitating fatigue and four of eight associated symptoms) were examined for their relationship with PTSD.

Results. The prevalence of lifetime PTSD was 20% and lifetime MDD was 42%. Patients who had both tender points and diffuse pain had a higher prevalence of PTSD (OR=3·4, 95% CI 2·0–5·8) compared with those who had neither of these FM criteria. Stratification by MDD and adjustment for sociodemographic factors and chronic fatigue revealed that the association of PTSD with FM criteria was confined to those with MDD. Patients with MDD who met both components of the FM criteria had a three-fold increase in the prevalence of PTSD (95% CI 1·5–7·1); conversely, FM patients without MDD showed no increase in PTSD (OR=1·3, 95% CI 0·5–3·2). The components of the CFS criteria were not significantly associated with PTSD.

Conclusion. Optimal clinical care for patients with FM should include an assessment of trauma in general, and PTSD in particular. This study highlights the importance of considering co-morbid MDD as an effect modifier in analyses that explore PTSD in patients with FM.


Corresponding author

Dr Peter Roy-Byrne, Harborview Medical Center, 325 9th Avenue Box 359911, Seattle, WA 98104, USA.


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