Pain, personality, and polygenic risk

The current project explores genetic risk factors and interactions between chronic pain, and mental distress, interpersonal problems and social functioning

Short project summary

With the title "Pain, personality, and polygenic risk", the project represents a collaboration with The Department of Pain Management and Research, Research group of Personality Psychiatry and Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research (NORMENT)/Department of Medical Genetics. It has a translational design aiming to improve clinical practice for patients with chronic pain conditions and mental disorders. It includes three work packages (WP) with both a cross-sectional and longitudinal study design.  Data will be extracted from the research database from the Norwegian Network for Personality Disorders and from the biobank project “NONSTOP-GEN” (OUS).

Principle investigator: Gunnvald Kvarstein, Department of Pain Management and Research

Central collaborators from the Personality Psychiatry Research Group: Geir Pedersen (Network for Personality Disorders), and Benjamin Hummelen (NONSTOP-GEN).


Personality disorders (PDs) are complex conditions characterized by maladaptive and inflexible patterns of thought, feelings, and behaviours. A large proportion also suffer from medical comorbidity, reports indicate a broad range of bodily symptoms and high utilization of health services. Nonetheless, pain conditions have traditionally not been evaluated within mental health services, and vice-versa, in multi-disciplinary pain clinics personality problems are seldom assessed.

In an initial, explorative study of a large number of patients seeking treatment for personality disorders (N> 5000, Network for Personality Disorders), our project group found a surprisingly high pain prevalence (70%). More than 50% rated pain as moderate, 15% as extreme. Such an unexpected finding warrants further investigation. The field has not been thoroughly explored, not least the relation between pain and other emotional problems or how pain might interfere with psychological treatment.

Genetic risk factors identified for personality traits, have been shown to correlate with the risk for multisite chronic pain and may contribute to the high pain prevalence among these patients. These aspects form an important background for the current project exploring interactions between chronic pain, and mental distress, interpersonal problems and social functioning. It is the first study coupling polygenic risk and pain among patients with personality disorders. By exploring how pain influences the course of personality disorder treatment, we might obtain a broader understanding of the interaction between personality pathology and pain and refine future treatment services and prevent self-harming and suicidal behaviour.


The current project provides grounds for three articles. Oslo University Hospital has provided three-year funding for a PhD candidate from 2022. (Link to announcement)

The project is a first stage of further translational research and research projects combining research fields of pain/personality psychiatry/genetics.

Publisert 31. jan. 2022 12:19 - Sist endret 31. jan. 2022 12:26