Examining Neurological and Psychological Symptoms of Gulf War Illness Using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2
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BACKGROUND: Gulf War Illness (GWI) reflects a constellation of symptoms that affect a large number of veterans from the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Reported ailments include a variety of cognitive, musculoskeletal and psychological complaints. Whereas many symptoms were originally attributed to psychological causes, chemical exposures resulting in neurological damage have since been reported. The purpose of the study was to examine self-reported psychological symptoms and profiles in GWI, with an emphasis on symptoms that may have a neurological basis. SUBJECTS: Groups were comprised of 65 Gulf War veterans with GWI (“cases”) and 31 healthy age-matched veteran controls recruited from a National Survey. The case group was divided into one of three GWI syndromes: syndrome 1 (Impaired Cognition), syndrome 2 (Confusion-Ataxia), and syndrome 3 (Central Pain). METHOD: Participants completed the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI- 2), a common self-report psychological diagnostic inventory, including the standard clinical scales, a set of restructured scales which eliminates item overlap, and a set of scales designed to assess neurologic symptoms, across cases, controls, and syndromes. RESULTS: GWI subjects displayed higher scores across all MMPI-2 scores compared to controls. Additionally, those with GWI who endorsed a larger percentage of neurological items displayed higher elevations on all other MMPI-2 scales. Within GWI syndromes, syndrome 2 (Confusion-Ataxia) endorsed the highest percentage of neurological ailments and scored higher than the other groups on all additional scales examined. DISCUSSION: Veterans with GWI displayed a nonspecific, generalized pattern of distress on the MMPI-2. While specific neurological and psychological processes were not identified, results highlight the range and severity of symptoms reported in veterans with GWI.