Chronic pelvic pain as a somatoform disorder

Psychother Psychosom. 1999 Mar-Apr;68(2):87-94. doi: 10.1159/000012318.


Background: The purpose of this study was to determine whether psychiatric disturbances, particularly somatization, and an increased number of traumatic and critical life events, which have been found in women with idiopathic chronic pelvic pain (ICPP), can also be observed in women with chronic pelvic pain and abdominal adhesions (ACPP).

Methods: Forty women who underwent diagnostic laparoscopy were subdivided into three groups according to blind rated somatic pathologies: ICPP patients (n = 16), ACPP patients (n = 10), infertile controls without pain (n = 14). Besides the standardized assessment of DSM-III-R diagnosis, questionnaires and semistandardized interviews were used to estimate depression, somatization, pain, the prevalence of sexual and physical abuse, and the number of critical life events.

Results: Diagnostic criteria for somatoform pain disorder were fullfilled in 73.3% of the ICPP patients, 60% of the ACPP patients and none of the controls. With respect to the somatization symptom checklist the two pain groups scored significantly higher than the controls (p < 0.05). Referring to perceived pain, ACPP patients differed from the ICPP patients by one out of seven subscales (higher persistence of pain; p < 0.05). No correlation was found between the intensity of pain and the severity of classified adhesions. The two groups of pain patients significantly differed from controls by a higher prevalence of sexual abuse (p < 0.05). Depression was found neither in the pain groups nor in the controls.

Conclusions: Because high somatization and high prevalence rates of abuse were not only found in patients suffering from ICPP but also in ACPP patients, it seems to be doubtful that the somatic pathology may fully explain the psychopathology in patients with ACPP.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy
  • Pain Measurement / psychology
  • Pelvic Pain / complications*
  • Pelvic Pain / psychology*
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / etiology*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Tissue Adhesions
  • Violence / psychology