Sexual and physical abuse in women with fibromyalgia syndrome: a test of the trauma hypothesis

Clin J Pain. 2005 Sep-Oct;21(5):378-86. doi: 10.1097/01.ajp.0000149796.08746.ea.


Objectives: According to the trauma hypothesis, women with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) are more likely to report a history of sexual and/or physical abuse than women without FMS. In this study, we rely on a community sample to test this hypothesis and the related prediction that women with FMS are more likely to have posttraumatic stress disorder than women without FMS.

Methods: Eligibility for the present study was limited to an existing community sample in which FMS and major depressive disorder were prevalent. The unique composition of the original sample allowed us to recruit women with and without FMS from the community. A total of 52 female participants were enrolled in the present FMS group and 53 in the control (no FMS) group. Sexual and physical abuse were assessed retrospectively using a standardized telephone interview.

Results: Except for rape, sexual and physical abuse were reported equally often by women in the FMS and control groups. Women who reported rape were 3.1 times more likely to have FMS than women who did not report rape (P<0.05). There was no evidence of increased childhood abuse in the FMS group. Women with FMS were more likely to have posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (intrusive thoughts and arousal) as well as posttraumatic stress disorder diagnosis (P<0.01).

Discussion: With the exception of rape, no self-reported sexual or physical abuse event was associated with FMS in this community sample. In accord with the trauma hypothesis, however, posttraumatic stress disorder was more prevalent in the FMS group. Chronic stress in the form of posttraumatic stress disorder but not major depressive disorder may mediate the relationship between rape and FMS.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Causality
  • Comorbidity
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • New Jersey / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Syndrome