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Eur J Pain. 2010 Aug;14(7):764-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2009.11.012. Epub 2009 Dec 24.

Self-discrepancies in work-related upper extremity pain: relation to emotions and flexible-goal adjustment.

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Department of Clinical Psychological Sciences, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.


Recurrent pain not only has an impact on disability, but on the long term it may become a threat to one's sense of self. This paper presents a cross-sectional study of patients with work-related upper extremity pain and focuses on: (1) the role of self-discrepancies in this group, (2) the associations between self-discrepancies, pain, emotions and (3) the interaction between self-discrepancies and flexible-goal adjustment. Eighty-nine participants completed standardized self-report measures of pain intensity, pain duration, anxiety, depression and flexible-goal adjustment. A Selves Questionnaire was used to generate self-discrepancies. A series of hierarchical regression analyses showed relationships between actual-ought other, actual-ought self, actual-feared self-discrepancies and depression as well as a significant association between actual-ought other self-discrepancy and anxiety. Furthermore, significant interactions were found between actual-ought other self-discrepancies and flexibility, indicating that less flexible participants with large self-discrepancies score higher on depression. This study showed that self-discrepancies are related to negative emotions and that flexible-goal adjustment served as a moderator in this relationship. The view of self in pain and flexible-goal adjustment should be considered as important variables in the process of chronic pain.

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