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Int J Psychiatry Med. 2014;47(1):1-16.

Emotional reactions to pain predict psychological distress in adult patients with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).


Differentiating somatic from emotional influences on the experience of chronic pain has been of interest to clinicians and researchers for many years. Although prior research has not well specified these pathways at the anatomical level, some evidence, both theoretical and empirical, suggest that emotional reactions influence the experience of disease and non-disease-related pains. Other studies suggest that treatments directed at negative emotional responses reduce suffering associated with pain. The current study was conducted to explore the influence of emotional reactions to pain as a predictor of psychological distress in a sample of adult Blacks with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). Using cross-sectional survey data, we evaluated whether negative emotional reactions to the experience of pain were predictive of psychological distress after controlling for the somatic dimension of pain and age in n = 67 Black patients with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). Results showed that greater negative emotion associated with pain predicted Somatization (p < .01), Anxiety (p < .05), Phobic Anxiety (p < .05), and Psychoticism (p < .05). Increased negative emotion associated with pain was also predictive of the General Symptoms Index (p < .05) and the Positive Symptoms Total from the SCL-90-R (p < .01). We believe the current study demonstrates that negative emotional reactions to the experience of pain in adults with SCD are predictive of psychological distress above and beyond the influences of age and the direct nociceptive experience. We also believe these data to be valuable in conceptualizing the allocation of treatment resources toward a proactive approach with early identification of patients who are responding poorly for the purpose of potentially reducing later psychopathology. A deeper understanding of the ways that subpopulations cope with chronic disease-related pain may produce models that can be ultimately generalized to the consumers of the majority of healthcare resources.

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