alexa The relationship between chronic whiplash-associated disorder and post-traumatic stress: attachment-anxiety may be a vulnerability factor.


Journal of Pain & Relief

Author(s): Andersen TE, Elklit A, Vase L

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Abstract BACKGROUND: In more than 90\% of whiplash accidents a good explanation regarding the association between trauma mechanism, organic pathology, and persistent symptoms has failed to be provided. OBJECTIVE: We predicted that the severity of chronic whiplash-associated disorder (WAD), measured as number of whiplash symptoms, pain duration, pain-related disability, and degree of somatisation would be associated with the number of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSD). Secondly, we expected attachment-anxiety to be a vulnerability factor in relation to both PTSD and WAD. DESIGN: Data were collected from 1,349 women and 360 men suffering from WAD from the Danish Society for Polio, Traffic, and Accident Victims. The PTSD symptoms were measured by the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire. All three core PTSD clusters were included: re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Attachment security was measured along the two dimensions, attachment-anxiety and attachment-avoidance, by the Revised Adult Attachment Scale. RESULTS: PTSD symptoms were significantly related to the severity of WAD. In particular, the PTSD clusters of avoidance and hyperarousal were associated with the number of whiplash symptoms, disability, and somatisation. Attachment-anxiety was significantly related to PTSD symptoms and somatisation but not to pain and disability. A co-morbidity of 38.8\% was found between the PTSD diagnosis and WAD, and about 20\% of the sample could be characterised as securely attached. CONCLUSIONS: The PTSD clusters of avoidance and hyperarousal were significantly associated with severity of WAD. The study emphasises the importance of assessing PTSD symptomatology after whiplash injury. Furthermore, it highlights that attachment theory may facilitate the understanding of why some people are more prone to develop PTSD and WAD than others.
This article was published in Eur J Psychotraumatol and referenced in Journal of Pain & Relief

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