The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and chronic pain: a conceptual analysis of a long-standing but complicated relationship

Clin Psychol Rev. 2000 Aug;20(5):533-59. doi: 10.1016/s0272-7358(00)00053-2.


The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Disorder (MMPI) and its successor, the MMPI-2, have a long-standing tradition in the assessment of patients with chronic pain. With the introduction of more narrowly defined and factor-analyzed pain inventories, however, the utility of the MMPI-2 for pain assessment has been brought into question. In this review, the relevant literature is carefully scrutinized from a conceptual and historical perspective. It is concluded that many of the (recent) criticisms are largely ungrounded. Rather than the test itself being at fault or of little utility in the field of pain assessment, it has simply been applied inappropriately (i.e., for determination of pain etiology or underlying personality structure "explaining" the chronic pain). In conclusion, it is suggested that the application of the MMPI-2 in the assessment of patients with chronic pain should correspond more closely to the original aims and psychometric properties of the tool--that is, for screening and the generation of hypotheses regarding comorbid psychopathology and personality features having the potential to complicate the treatment process. Guidelines for clinical interpretation of MMPI-2 profiles with regard to chronic pain are provided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • MMPI / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results