Chronic pain and posttraumatic stress disorder: Mutual maintenance?

  • Sharp T
  • Harvey A
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Common sequelae following a traumatic event include chronic pain and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Over the last decade, the literature relating to PTSD has become progressively more sophisticated, resulting in well-supported theories and treatments for sufferers. Equivalent research relating to chronic pain has more recently gathered momentum. However, to date there has been minimal attention devoted to the concurrence of the two disorders, even though high comorbidity has been noted. This review begins by briefly summarizing the literature relating to the two disorders in terms of symptoms, prevalence and comorbidity. It explicates the major psychological theories of chronic pain and PTSD and reviews the evidence relating what factors maintain the disorders. A number of pathways by which chronic pain and PTSD may be mutually maintaining are highlighted. We conclude that chronic pain and PTSD are mutually maintaining conditions and that there are several pathways by which both disorders may be involved in the escalation of symptoms and distress following trauma. Treatment implications are considered, as are issues for future research. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Chronic pain
  • Maintenance
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Theory
  • Treatment

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