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Psychological characteristics of Japanese patients with chronic pain assessed by the Rorschach test

Kazumi Yamamoto12*, Kenji Kanbara1, Hiromi Mutsuura1, Ikumi Ban1, Yasuyuki Mizuno1, Tetsuya Abe1, Maki Yoshino3, Aran Tajika3, Yoshihide Nakai12 and Mikihiko Fukunaga1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, Kansai Medical University, Osaka, Japan

2 Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, Rakusai Newtown Hospital, Kyoto, Japan

3 Department of Neuropsychiatry, Kansai Medical University, Osaka, Japan

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BioPsychoSocial Medicine 2010, 4:20  doi:10.1186/1751-0759-4-20

Published: 26 November 2010



The increasing number of patients with chronic pain in Japan has become a major issue in terms of the patient's quality of life, medical costs, and related social problems. Pain is a multi-dimensional experience with physiological, affective, cognitive, behavioral and social components, and recommended to be managed via a combination of bio-psycho-social aspects. However, a biomedical approach is still the dominant method of pain treatment in Japan. The current study aimed to evaluate comprehensive psychological functions and processes in Japanese chronic pain patients.


The Rorschach Comprehensive System was administered to 49 in-patients with non-malignant chronic pain. Major variables and frequencies from the test were then compared to normative data from non-patient Japanese adults by way of the t-test and chi-square test.


Patients exhibited high levels of emotional distress with a sense of helplessness with regard to situational stress, confusion, and ambivalent feelings. These emotions were managed by the patients in an inappropriate manner. Cognitive functions resulted in moderate dysfunction in all stages. Information processing tended to focus upon minute features in an inflexible manner. Mediational dysfunction was likely to occur with unstable affective conditions. Ideation was marked by pessimistic and less effective thinking. Since patients exhibited negative self-perception, their interpersonal relationship skills tended to be ineffective. Originally, our patients displayed average psychological resources for control, stress tolerance, and social skills for interpersonal relationships. However, patient coping styles were either situation- or emotion-dependent, and patients were more likely to exhibit emotional instability influenced by external stimuli, resulting in increased vulnerability to pain.


Data gathered from the Rorschach test suggested psychological approaches to support chronic pain patients that are likely to be highly beneficial, and we thus recommend their incorporation into the course of current pain treatments.