Relevance of the Fear-Avoidance Model for Chronic Disability after Traumatic Brain Injury

Melloney L.M. Wijenberg, Amelia J. Hicks, Marina G. Downing, Caroline M. Van Heugten, Sven Z. Stapert, Jennie L. Ponsford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies convincingly suggest that the biopsychosocial fear-Avoidance model (FAM) may be of added value in understanding chronic disability after traumatic brain injury (TBI). In this model, persistent symptoms occur as a result of catastrophizing and fear-Avoidance regarding initial symptoms, leading to depression, reduced mental activity, and greater disability in daily functioning. This study examined the FAM in a large English-speaking TBI sample. A cross-sectional study was conducted in 117 individuals with complicated mild, moderate, or severe TBI at 1-5 years post-injury. Participants completed questionnaires assessing personal, injury-related, and psychological characteristics. Reliability, correlational, and regression analyses were performed. Main outcome measures of chronic disability were depression, disuse (e.g., fewer mental activities), and functional disability. The results revealed that all correlations suggested by the FAM were significant. Catastrophizing thoughts were positively associated with TBI-related symptoms and fear-Avoidance thoughts. Main outcome measures were positively associated with fear-Avoidance thoughts and TBI-related symptoms. Further, variables in the FAM were of additive value to personal, injury-related, and psychological variables in understanding chronic disability after TBI. The separate regression analyses for depression, fewer mental activities, and disability revealed "fear-Avoidance thoughts"as the only consistent variable. In conclusion, this study shows the association of the FAM with chronic disability after TBI, which has implications for assessment and future management of the FAM in TBI in English-speaking countries. Longitudinal studies are warranted to further investigate and refine the model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2639-2646
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020


  • chronic disability
  • chronic phase
  • fear-Avoidance model
  • traumatic brain injury

Cite this