- Chronic somatoform pain
- Psychosomatic in-patient treatment
- Attachment style
Patients with chronic pain are found with highly variable clinical presentation and differing physical complaints. They are seen as a heterogenic group. Based on clinical observations, elderly patients seem to differ from younger patients with chronic pain. We examined whether there were systematic differences between young and old pain patients.
As part of a routine evaluation of university hospital care, a newly developed psychosomatic treatment model for chronic somatoform pain disorders was examined. The basis for treatment efficacy was a target-oriented, specific somatic and psychological intervention that included a stable physician-patient relationship. Particular attention was paid to differences in treatment outcome with regard to changes in both physical and psychopathological symptom levels. We hypothesised that younger pain patients had higher psychological burden and benefitted more from our treatment than older pain patients.
Overall, 179 inpatients (57.5% women) with chronic pain were examined (age between 16 and 79 years). The group as a whole yielded high scores on the somatisation dimension (SCL-90) and showed a considerable amount of psychopathological symptoms, such as depressive mood and anxiety (HADS) and a great emotional instability (FPI-R). Age differences were only found with regards to patients’ degree of aggression (SCl-90): younger patients showed higher aggressive tendencies than older ones (p< 0.05). The treatment offered helped patients in both age groups especially with regard to reduction of depressive mood (HADS, p< 0.01) and anxiety levels (HADS, p< 0.01). Regression analysis showed different age groups and gender as significant predictors of anxiety reduction under therapy (R2=.108; model: p< 0.01).
Results show that younger chronic pain patients suffer more from a considerable amount of psychological distress than older ones, but our treatment approach was equally effective in both groups. However, age and gender differences, as well as the patient’s baseline level of anxiety influenced the outcome. These factors need to be studied in future research.