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Cogn Behav Ther. 2006;35(4):189-97.

Differences in high and low anxiety sensitive women's responses to a laboratory-based cold pressor task.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada.


Anxiety sensitivity (AS) has been linked to a variety of disabling chronic health conditions, including pain-related conditions. A recent study has found that healthy women with high AS reported significantly higher levels of sensory and affective pain on an experimental cold pressor task compared to women with low AS. However, this study found no differences between AS groups for pain tolerance or pain threshold. In the present study, which was designed to replicate and extend these findings, 90 undergraduate university women were selected for inclusion in 1 of 2 AS groups (high or low) based on their screening scores on a 16-item measure of AS. Participants were tested individually on a lab-based cold pressor task using a variety of self-report and observer-measured variables. Data analyses revealed that, as expected, the high AS participants reported significantly more fear in response to the cold pressor on a relevant item of the McGill Pain Questionnaire-Short Form (SF-MPQ) than did the low AS participants. Also as expected, the high AS participants reported more pain in response to the cold pressor on the Present Pain Index (PPI) of the SF-MPQ than did the low AS participants. High AS participants did not differ from low AS participants on other aspects of the cold pressor response (e.g. pain threshold, pain tolerance, pain recovery). These results support the role of pain-related fear as a mediating variable between AS and increased perceived pain intensity.

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