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      Big Five Personality Traits and Disabling Chronic Low Back Pain: Association with Fear-Avoidance, Anxious and Depressive Moods

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          Physical dysfunction in chronic low back pain patients is influenced by psychological variables rather than by pain severity. Assessing personality traits may help clinicians address the complexity of patients’ experiences and design treatments that target these vulnerabilities. This study aimed to identify the distinguishing personality traits of a cohort of patients with disabling chronic low back pain and to determine associations between those traits and fear-avoidance beliefs, depressive, and anxious moods.

          Patients and Methods

          This cross-sectional study included 102 chronic low back pain patients (57% male), who failed standard management and were referred to a multidisciplinary rehabilitation program. All patients completed the five domains of the NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI)–Revised (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to experience, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness), the Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia (TSK), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). One-sample t-test was used to compare sample personality means with average population norms. Association between the five personality domains with TSK and HADS was assessed using Pearson’s correlation, adjusted for patient demographics and pain-related variables. Linear regression was used to estimate associations adjusted for covariates.


          Both men and women had significantly lower scores in the Openness to experience domain and significantly higher scores in the Conscientiousness domain than the general population norms. After adjusting for covariates, Neuroticism was associated with higher fear-avoidance, depression and anxiety scores. Conversely, Extraversion and Openness to experience negatively correlated with depression scores. Extraversion also inversely correlated with fear-avoidance. Conscientiousness negatively correlated with depression and anxiety after adjustment.


          Patients with disabling chronic low back pain show personality characteristics that deviate significantly from the normal population norms but do not reach maladaptive forms of personality disorders. Clinicians would benefit from assessing patients’ personality traits to address protective and risk factors for psychological distress, particularly in difficult-to-treat, highly disabled low back pain patients.

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          Most cited references 38

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          International experiences with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale--a review of validation data and clinical results.

          More than 200 published studies from most medical settings worldwide have reported experiences with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) which was specifically developed by Zigmond and Snaith for use with physically ill patients. Although introduced in 1983, there is still no comprehensive documentation of its psychometric properties. The present review summarizes available data on reliability and validity and gives an overview of clinical studies conducted with this instrument and their most important findings. The HADS gives clinically meaningful results as a psychological screening tool, in clinical group comparisons and in correlational studies with several aspects of disease and quality of life. It is sensitive to changes both during the course of diseases and in response to psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological intervention. Finally, HADS scores predict psychosocial and possibly also physical outcome.
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            Gender differences in personality traits across cultures: robust and surprising findings.

            Secondary analyses of Revised NEO Personality Inventory data from 26 cultures (N = 23,031) suggest that gender differences are small relative to individual variation within genders; differences are replicated across cultures for both college-age and adult samples, and differences are broadly consistent with gender stereotypes: Women reported themselves to be higher in Neuroticism, Agreeableness, Warmth, and Openness to Feelings, whereas men were higher in Assertiveness and Openness to Ideas. Contrary to predictions from evolutionary theory, the magnitude of gender differences varied across cultures. Contrary to predictions from the social role model, gender differences were most pronounced in European and American cultures in which traditional sex roles are minimized. Possible explanations for this surprising finding are discussed, including the attribution of masculine and feminine behaviors to roles rather than traits in traditional cultures.
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              The psychological flexibility model: a basis for integration and progress in psychological approaches to chronic pain management.

              Scientific models are like tools, and like any tool they can be evaluated according to how well they achieve the chosen goals of the task at hand. In the science of treatment development for chronic pain, we might say that a good model ought to achieve at least 3 goals: 1) integrate current knowledge, 2) organize research and treatment development activities, and 3) create progress. In the current review, we examine models underlying current cognitive behavioral approaches to chronic pain with respect to these criteria. A relatively new model is also presented as an option, and some of its features examined. This model is called the psychological flexibility model. This model fully integrates cognitive and behavioral principles and includes a process-oriented approach of treatment development. So far it appears capable of generating treatment applications that range widely with regard to conditions targeted and modes of delivery and that are increasingly supported by evidence. It has led to the generation of innovative experiential, relationship-based, and intensive treatment methods. The scientific strategy associated with this model seeks to find limitations in current models and to update them. It is assumed within this strategy that all current treatment approaches will one day appear lacking and will change.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                14 April 2020
                : 13
                : 745-754
                [1 ]Division of Rheumatology, University Hospitals of Geneva , Geneva, Switzerland
                [2 ]Department of Physical Medicine, Rheumatology and Rehabilitation, Suez Canal University , Ismailia, Egypt
                [3 ]Medical Direction, University Hospitals of Geneva , Geneva, Switzerland
                [4 ]Quality of Care Service, Geneva University Hospitals , Geneva, Switzerland
                [5 ]Department of Readaptation and Geriatrics, University of Geneva , Geneva, Switzerland
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Maha Emad Ibrahim Department of Physical Medicine, Rheumatology and Rehabilitation, Suez Canal University , Ring Road, Ismailia41511, EgyptTel +20 1005607210 Email maha.ibrahim@med.suez.edu.eg
                © 2020 Ibrahim et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                Page count
                Tables: 4, References: 53, Pages: 10
                The study was supported by a grant from Rheuma Search Foundation. Maha E. Ibrahim was supported by a postdoc Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship supplied by the Swiss Confederation.
                Original Research


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