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Pain. 2008 Jan;134(1-2):187-96. Epub 2007 May 29.

Anxiety sensitivity and pain: generalisability across noxious stimuli.

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Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, New Cross, London SE14 6NW, UK.


Anxiety sensitivity, a fear of anxiety-related symptoms, has been associated with a heightened experience of pain, especially within women. The majority of experimental studies investigating this association have relied heavily on the cold pressor technique as a means of pain induction, limiting the generalisability of results. The aim of the current study was to extend previous research by using two types of pain stimuli (cold and heat) to determine whether the link between anxiety sensitivity and pain generalises beyond cold pressor pain. The pain experience of 125 participants in response to these stimuli was assessed using threshold and tolerance readings, as well as subjective pain ratings. Results indicated a positive association between anxiety sensitivity and subjective pain, with this association observed primarily in females. Although analysis also indicated a basic generalisability of results across pain stimuli, anxiety sensitivity effects appeared to be especially pronounced during heat stimulation. These findings suggest that those high in anxiety sensitivity may respond more negatively to specific types of pain. Possible implications along with suggestions for future research are discussed.

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