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Psychophysiology. 2014 Mar;51(3):247-56. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12175. Epub 2014 Jan 15.

Psychological pain and reduced resting-state heart rate variability in adults with a history of depression.

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Department of Community Health Systems, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.


Psychological pain is a prominent symptom in people who experience depression, but its relation with physiological measures has not been explored. This study compared two measures of psychological pain, the Orbach & Mikulincer Mental Pain (OMMP) questionnaire and the Psychache Scale, for their relationship with resting-state heart rate variability (HRV) in 35 adults with a history of depression. Low-frequency HRV decreased significantly with increasing psychological pain, particularly in participants who did not use antidepressants, while the beat-to-beat fractal dimension decreased in participants who did use antidepressants. Neither heart rate nor high-frequency HRV was associated with psychological pain. These results suggest a state of arousal characterized by increased sympathetic activity. Results also indicate that the OMMP may be a more accurate measure of autonomic arousal associated with current psychological pain than the Psychache Scale.


Autonomic nervous system; Emotional pain; Heart rate variability; Mental pain; Nonlinear measures; Psychological pain

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