Torturing personification of chronic pain among torture survivors

Noga Tsur*, Golan Shahar, Ruth Defrin, Yael Lahav, Karni Ginzburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background Consistent with the human tendency to anthropomorphize objects, events, and situations, individuals might ascribe human characteristics to physical symptoms and illnesses. This manuscript presents an examination of chronic pain personification in torture survivors. Specifically, it was hypothesized that torture survivors personify chronic pain as a torturing sensation. It was further hypothesized that PTSD mediates the effect of past torture on torturing pain personification. Methods Fifty-nine Israeli ex-prisoners of war (ex-POWs), who experienced severe torture in captivity, and 44 matched controls completed self-administered questionnaires at 18, 30, and 35 years post captivity. Results Whereas ex-POWs exhibit higher torturing personification than controls, no differences were found in concrete description of chronic pain. PTSD trajectories were implicated in different levels of torturing personification. Finally, sequential mediation analysis revealed that PTSD at T2 and T3 mediated the association between torture and torturing personification. Conclusions The findings suggest that trauma shapes the way individuals relate to and experience their bodily sensations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-161
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
StatePublished - Aug 2017


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation669/08


    • Chronic pain
    • PTSD
    • Pain personification
    • Torture survivors
    • Torturing personification


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