Pain Flashbacks: Exploration of intrusive pain symptoms following child abuse

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4 Scopus citations


Objective: Child abuse (CA) and pain have been shown to entail multifaceted links. Although findings imply that CA survivors are at a higher risk of suffering from complex/posttraumatic stress disorder (C/PTSD) and chronic pain, the underlying mechanisms of these links are yet to be uncovered. This study highlights a new mechanism pertaining to the potential role of intrusive pain flashbacks for explaining the link between CA, C/PTSD, and chronic pain. Methods: A community-based sample of 431 women, and a sample of 160 women who experienced CA completed questionnaires assessing pain flashbacks, CA, C/PTSD symptoms, the experience of pain during the trauma, and chronic pain. Results: The findings showed that 8.9 % of the community sample (N = 36), and 23.1 % of the CA sample (N = 37) reported experiencing pain flashbacks. In both samples, participants who experienced pain flashbacks mostly reported more severe CA (p ≤ 0.052) and C/PTSD (p < 0.001), compared to participants who experienced flashbacks without pain and those who did not experience pain flashbacks. Participants who experienced pain flashbacks reported more pain during CA (p ≤ 0.001), which corresponded with the pain flashbacks body locations. Finally, pain flashbacks were correlated with a higher risk of suffering from chronic pain in the CA sample (p = 0.002). Conclusions: Pain flashbacks are associated with more severe CA and are linked to more C/PTSD symptoms. The findings call for further investigations of whether pain flashbacks might play a significant role in the link between CA and later chronic pain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106765
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Child abuse
  • Flashbacks
  • Intrusive pain
  • Pain
  • Pain flashbacks
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder


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