Mainstream pain management finally considers your personality type

It never ceases to amaze me how a little bit of good, solid data goes a long way in medicine.

Now–some may think only the self-styled “hard science” medical fields like cardiology and oncology use data. But we use it in psychology as well. In fact, the science of psychometrics measures your personality types to determine which kinds of treatment will work best for you as an individual.

I recently came across a good example of how psychometrics helped with pain management…

Pain management is an especially tough area of medicine nowadays. Physicians often feel powerless to deal with their patients’ pain because they don’t know which patients are most likely (or not) to abuse pain medications. Physicians claim they would prescribe dangerous opioid (narcotic) pain drugs less often if they could identify the patients more prone to substance abuse.

So psychologists at the University of West Virginia recently designed a system, using psychometrics, to evaluate a patients’ risk of abusing pain medication. They identified patients most likely to abuse pain drugs based upon known risk factors, including demographics and personality traits assessed by clinical history and patient self-reports.

Using this simple psychometrics approach, the WV psychologists sorted 151 patients with chronic pain into three levels of risk for drug abuse or misuse: low, moderate and high.

This important data strongly influenced the physicians’ decisions to prescribe pain drugs. In fact, physicians were more than four times more likely to prescribe pain drugs if the patients were in a lower risk profile.

The study also found that physicians were less likely to prescribe narcotic drugs to patients who had higher pain scores or a history of abuse. They also were less likely to prescribe pain drugs if their patient had higher scores on the Beck Depression Scale and other scales for assessing patients in pain. In addition, doctors were more likely to prescribe to patients in long-term relationships or to patients with higher levels of education. Age and sex did not influence the doctors’ prescribing patterns.

We can use psychometric data in a variety of ways…

The general psychometric approach has been used extensively for many decades in vocational counseling with the Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Inventory. They also routinely use it in business and management with the Meyers-Briggs Scale.

But psychometrics has been slow to find its way into healthcare–either mainstream or “integrative.” And that’s a shame, because as this WV study shows, a little bit of psychometrics data goes a long way.

In my books with Michael Jawer (Your Emotional Type) and Sebhia Marie Dibra (Healing Your Pain), we use the science of psychometrics to match your pain and your pain treatment to your “emotional” type.

I am also working with Sebhia to publish a textbook for health professionals tentatively entitled Complementary/Alternative and Integrative Medicine for Common Pain Conditions in 2016. This book will also focus on using psychometrics to match your pain treatment to your personality type.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the world of psychology embraces using the psychometric approach, as I learned a few years back when I was invited to speak at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco. I would have thought these psychologists would be receptive to psychometrics and to matching patients with appropriate “mind-body” techniques for pain relief.

But I would have been wrong.

Instead–those psychologists focused only on petitioning the government to grant them the privilege to write prescriptions for drugs, just like the medical psychiatrists. Instead of offering desperately needed alternatives!

Clearly, we still have a long road ahead of us.

In the meantime, you can discover which personality type you have by taking this short quiz. Then, you can learn which mind-body healing technique will work best for you based on your personality type.


“Abuse Risk Evaluation Changes Opioid Prescribing,” Medscape ( 5/15/2015