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Pain. 2011 Feb;152(2):403-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.11.009. Epub 2011 Jan 7.

"Being" in pain: the role of self-discrepancies in the emotional experience and activity patterns of patients with chronic low back pain.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Psychological Science, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Chronic pain not only interferes with daily activities, it may also have a negative impact on the perceived integrity of one's self through self-discrepancies. Self-discrepancies are experienced distances between the actual self and self-guides that can exist from 2 perspectives (ie, own and other). Self-discrepancies are associated with negative mood states and incite self-regulatory behavior in order to reduce these discrepancies. The present study was aimed at replicating the emotional consequences of self-discrepancies in patients with chronic low back pain, and extending current knowledge of the behavioral consequences of self-discrepancies (ie, behavioral activity patterns such as avoidance and persistence). A cross-sectional design was employed with 83 patients who completed a number of self-report measures. We hypothesized that ideal and ought discrepancies, as well as feared congruencies were associated with depressed and anxious mood. On the behavioral level, a U-shaped relationship was hypothesized between ideal and ought self-discrepancies and persistence behavior, whereas feared self-discrepancies were hypothesized to be related to avoidance behavior. Results were partially in line with the hypotheses. With respect to the emotional consequences, feared (own and other) self-discrepancies were predictive of depressive and anxious mood. With regard to activity patterns, results showed a U-shaped relationship between ideal-other self-discrepancies and persistence behavior and a positive relationship between feared-own self-discrepancies and avoidance behavior. In contrast to expectations, none of the other self-discrepancies was related to activity patterns. Of interest was that avoidance, but not persistence behavior, was predictive of higher levels of disability and lower levels of quality of life. Support is provided for the role of self-discrepancies in the emotional well-being and behavioural patterns of patients with chronic low back pain.

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