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Searching for pain-prone personalities: A meta-analysis and re-interpretation of MMPI profile commonly found among pain populations

26 July 1996


For years researchers have sought to identify pain-prone personality types using the MMPl. Previous research suggests that pain patients typically produce one of four "significantly" different MMPl profiles. This paper is a meta-analysis of pain patient profiles. using computerized graphing techniques and discriminant analysis! the author compares mean MMPl profiles found in various pain populations to the Prototypic 1-3 and 6-8/8-6 profiles reported in Greene (1991). Further analysis produced a better fit between the 6- 8/8-6 variants and a mean Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.l.D.) profile derived from profiles reported in the literature. This analysis suggests that the mean scale elevation differences previously thought to be significant are better construed as chance variations and that there are only two primary approaches to the MMPI among pain patients. The first approach results in a relatively flat and unelevated validity configuration and elevations on clinical scales one! two and three. The second approach results in a carat shaped and elevated validity configuration and elevations on clinical scales one! two! and three plus elevations on scales six! seven and eight. The author offers an explanation based in social constructivist/narrative theory for the striking profile similarities among pain patients and concludes by suggesting that future research rely more heavily on projective techniques because projective techniques place fewer restrictions on the language available to the patient to describe the pain experience.


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