Chronic spinal disorders and psychopathology: Research findings and theoretical considerations

Jeffrey Dersh, Robert Joseph Gatchel, Peter Polatin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background context: Numerous studies have documented a strong association between chronic spinal disorders and psychopathology. However, there have been methodological shortcomings associated with much of this. Purpose This article reviews the relevant research literature, including methodological refinements that have resulted in improved measurement of psychopathology, in order to provide the most updated conclusions concerning the links between spinal disorders and psychopathology. Study design A systematic review of all Medline referenced articles on this subject during the past three decades. Methods Previous research has shown that chronic spinal disorders are most often associated with depressive disorders, somatoform disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and personality disorders. In addition to reviewing this research, the relationship between chronic spinal disorders and depressive disorders is examined in more detail. Results Although the relationship between spinal disorders and psychopathology is complex, a diathesis-stress model is emerging as the dominant overarching theoretical model. In this model, diatheses are conceptualized as pre-existing semidormant characteristics of the individual before the onset of chronic spinal disorders, which are then activated by the stress of this chronic condition, eventually resulting in a diagnosable depressive disorder. Conclusions In the present review, a diathesis-stress model was applied specifically to the relationship between chronic spinal disorders and depressive disorders. Such a model may also be applicable to the relationship between chronic spinal disorders and other types of psychopathology, such as anxiety and substance use disorders. However, conclusive empirical support will require a prospective research design, given that these diatheses could be validly assessed only before the onset of the chronic pain condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-94
Number of pages7
JournalSpine Journal
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001

Keywords

  • Chronic spinal disorders
  • DSM
  • Diathesis-stress model
  • Psychopathology

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