Somatoform dissociation and traumatic experiences in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and Fibromyalgia – Source: Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology, Nov-Dec 2007

[Note: Somatoform dissociation has been defined as failure to process somatic experiences adequately (bodily symptoms that can’t be explained medically) following trauma involving physical contact or injury.]

Objective: Trauma and dissociation tend to be interrelated. The objective of this study was to examine the frequency of traumatic experiences and somatoform dissociation in patients with Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA), two conditions that are both characterized by pain and disability.

Methods: Patients with a diagnosis of FMS (2 male, 26 female; mean age 42 +/- 11 years) or RA (5 male, 46 female; mean age 46 +/- 10 years) completed the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), the Somatoform Dissociation Questionnaire (SDQ), and the Traumatic Experience Checklist (TEC).

Results: Patients with FMS reported significantly higher levels of various forms of traumatization and dissociation than patients with RA. In patients with FMS, but not in patients with RA, there was a significant correlation between traumatization and dissociative symptoms. A possible dissociative disorder was indicated in 10% of the patients with FMS and 2% of the patients with RA.

Conclusion: Traumatization experiences are frequent in FMS, but as compared to conversion disorder or dissociative identity disorder only a small subgroup of patients with FMS or RA shows the combination of traumatization and somatoform dissociation. The observation of somatoform dissociation calls for a broad treatment approach with a special role of the psychologist or psychiatrist.

Source: Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology. 2007 Nov-Dec;25(6):872-7. PMID: 18173922, by Naring GW, van Lankveld W, Geenen R. Radboud University Nijmegen, Department of Clinical Psychology, Behavioral Science Institute, The Netherlands.

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