The utility of brief cognitive skills training in reducing pain catastrophizing during experimental pain Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Stonerock, Gregory L.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Individuals who experience pain often engage in catastrophizing (CAT), a cognitive style involving rumination about pain, magnification of perceived threat, and a feeling of helplessness to cope with the pain. Moreover, high levels of catastrophizing have been shown to lead to poorer pain outcomes, such as lower pain tolerance and greater pain-related disability. Training in cognitive coping skills can help individuals to manage pain more effectively. In the current study, 111 pain-free undergraduate participants completed two modalities of experimental pain tasks (pressure, cold pressor) before and after an intervention targeted at reducing CAT through three cognitive-behavioral coping strategies: distraction, mindfulness/acceptance of pain, and cognitive restructuring. Pain responses from this group were compared to two other groups, one that underwent a positive mood induction procedure and one that underwent a similar procedure aimed at having no effect on mood (neutral mood group), which served as a control group. Participants also completed a new measure, the Catastrophizing Visual Analog Scale (CAT-VAS), designed to assess in-the-moment CAT during pain tasks. This new measure improves upon previous retrospective self-report measures of CAT given that CAT measured during or immediately after the pain experience accounts for more variance in pain responses. Overall, the cognitive skills group showed lower CAT, higher pain tolerance, and greater reductions in subjective pain report post-intervention than either the positive or neutral mood groups. In addition, the CAT-VAS was more powerful in predicting pain response than existing retrospective questionnaire measurements. The results provide support for cognitive appraisal and fear-avoidance models of pain and pain coping, in which rumination and negative appraisal of pain escalate over time and promote a continued state of pain and distress whereas active coping attempts lead to greater pain relief.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Psychology (Clinical Psychology)."
  • Gil, Karen M.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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