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Suicide Behavior and Chronic Pain: An Exploration of Pain-Related Catastrophic Thinking, Disability, and Descriptions of the Pain Experience

Legarreta, Margaret, PhD*; Bueler, Elliott, BA; DiMuzio, Jennifer, BA; McGlade, Erin, PhD*†‡; Yurgelun-Todd, Deborah, PhD*†‡

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: March 2018 - Volume 206 - Issue 3 - p 217–222
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000799
Original Articles

This study examined differences in suicidal ideation (SI) and suicide attempts (SAs) among veterans with chronic pain. Pain-specific variables, including catastrophic thinking, disability, and sensory, affective, and evaluative pain descriptors, were a focus. Structured diagnostic and clinical interviews were conducted to examine SI/SA and mental health. Veterans completed the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV and the Columbia–Suicide Severity Rating Scale to assess Axis I symptoms and suicidal behavior(s). Self-report questionnaires were used to evaluate the participants' subjective experience of chronic pain, which included the McGill Pain Questionnaire, Pain Catastrophizing Scale, and Pain Disability Index. The findings add to previous literature by suggesting pain-related catastrophic thinking specifically is related to elevated risk for SA, whereas affective and sensory pain are associated with SI. The study results support the need to assess pain from a multifaceted perspective and to examine the different experiences of pain, such as sensory and affective constructs, when discussing suicide risk in veterans.

*Rocky Mountain Network Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Centers (VISN 19), VA Salt Lake City Health Care System; and †Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, and ‡Department of Psychiatry, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Send reprint requests to Margaret Legarreta, PhD, Rocky Mountain Network Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Centers (VISN 19), VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, 500 Foothill Drive, Mail Code 116 M, Salt Lake City, UT 84148. E-mail:

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