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Pain. 2006 Jun;122(3):282-8. Epub 2006 Mar 20.

The relation between catastrophizing and the communication of pain experience.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Montreal, Canada. michael.jl.sullivan@umontreal.ca


The Communal Coping Model of pain catastrophizing proposes that pain catastrophizers enact pain behaviors in order to solicit support or empathy from their social environment. By this account, pain catastrophizers might be expected to engage in behavior aimed at maximizing the probability that their pain will be perceived by others in their social environment. To test this prediction, 40 undergraduates were videotaped during a cold pressor procedure. A separate sample of 20 (10 men, 10 women) undergraduates were asked to view the video sequences and infer the pain ratings of the cold pressor participants. Correlational analyses revealed that higher levels of pain catastrophizing of the cold pressor participants were associated with observer inferences of more intense pain, r=.39, p<.01. The relation between cold pressor participants' level of pain catastrophizing and observer inferences of pain intensity was mediated by the cold pressor participants' pain behavior. Although pain catastrophizing was associated with observers' inferences of more intense pain, cold pressor participants' level of pain catastrophizing was not associated with observers' accuracy in inferring self-reported pain. Implications of the findings for theory and clinical practice are addressed.

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