Interactive effects of catastrophizing and suppression on responses to acute pain: a test of an appraisal × emotion regulation model

We examined whether people who tend to catastrophize about pain and who also attempt to regulate negative thoughts and feelings through suppression may represent a distinct subgroup of individuals highly susceptible to pain and distress. Ninety-seven healthy normal participants underwent a 4-min ischemic pain task followed by a 2-min recovery period. Self-reported pain and distress was recorded during the task and every 20 s during recovery. Participants completed the Pain Catastrophizing Scale and the White Bear Suppression Inventory. Repeated measures multiple regression analysis (using General Linear Model procedures) revealed significant 3-way interactions such that participants scoring high on the rumination and/or helplessness subscales of the Pain Catastrophizing Scale and who scored high on the predisposition to suppress unwanted thoughts and feelings reported the greatest pain and distress during recovery. Results suggest that pain catastrophizers who attempt to regulate their substantial pain intensity and distress with maladaptive emotion regulation strategies, such as suppression, may be especially prone to experience prolonged recovery from episodes of acute pain. Thus, emotion regulation factors may represent critical variables needed to understand the full impact of catastrophic appraisals on long-term adjustment to pain.


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