We conducted a cross-sectional study of sixty-one psychiatric outpatients with a refugee background using structured clinical diagnostic interviews to assess for traumatic events [Life Events Checklist (LEC)], PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and complex PTSD [Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV PTSD Module (SCID-PTSD) and Structured Interview for Disorders of Extreme Stress (SIDES)], chronic pain (SIDES Scale VI) and psychiatric symptoms [M.I.N.I. International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.)].
Self-report measures were used to assess symptoms of posttraumatic stress [Impact of Event Scale-revised (IES-R)], depression and anxiety [Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL-25)] and several markers of acculturation in Norway.
Of the 61 outpatients included, all but one reported at least one chronic pain location, with a mean of 4.6 locations per patient. Chronic pain at clinical levels was present in 66% of the whole sample of outpatients, and in 88% of the outpatients with current PTSD diagnosis.
The most prevalent chronic pain locations were head (80%), chest (74%), arms/legs (66%) and back (62%). Women had significantly more chronic pain locations than men. Comorbid PTSD and chronic pain were found in 57% of the outpatients. Significant differences were found between outpatients with and without chronic pain on posttraumatic stress, psychological distress, and DESNOS severity.
Chronic pains are common in multi-traumatized refugees in outpatient clinics in Norway, and are positively related to symptomatology and severity of psychiatric morbidity.
The presence of chronic pain, as well as comorbid chronic pain and PTSD, in psychiatric outpatients with a refugee background call for an integrated assessment and treatment for both conditions.