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Behav Res Ther. 1999 Aug;37(8):703-13.

Anxiety sensitivity and fear of pain in patients with recurring headaches.

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  • 1Clinical Research and Development Program, Regina Health District, Regina, Sask., Canada. gasmundson@reginahealth.sk.ca


Anxiety sensitivity (AS) plays an important role in the cognitive, affective and behavioral profiles of patients with chronic pain related to musculoskeletal injury. However, investigators have not considered whether these findings extend to patients with other classes of chronic pain. The primary purpose of this investigation was to address this issue in 72 patients with recurring headaches who completed a self-report questionnaire inventory during a treatment visit to an outpatient neurology clinic. The mean ASI score for the group (mean = 24; SD = 11) was relatively high. When patients were classified on the basis of ASI scores, 20 (28%) met criteria for high, 41 (57%) for medium and 11 (15%) for low AS. Multivariate analysis of variance confirmed that these groups differed on specific aspects of their cognitive, affective, and behavioral profiles. High AS patients reported greater depression, trait anxiety, pain-related escape/avoidance behavior and fearful appraisals of pain than did patients with medium or low AS. High AS patients also indicated greater cognitive disruption in response to pain than did patients with low AS. Groups did not differ in headache severity, physiological reactivity, change in lifestyle, anger, nor did they differ in use of over-the-counter or prescribed analgesics. Multiple regression analysis identified AS, pain-related cognitive disruption, and sensory pain experience as significant predictors of fear of pain. Lifestyle changes attributed to headache were, on the other hand, predicted by headache severity, physiological and cognitive anxiety and escape/avoidance behavior. These results provide further evidence of the important association between AS and fear responses of patients with chronic pain syndromes. Implications and future directions are discussed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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