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Pain. 1989 Apr;37(1):51-6.

Coping with rheumatoid arthritis pain: catastrophizing as a maladaptive strategy.

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Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710.


The present study examined catastrophizing in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. Subjects were 223 RA patients who were participants in a longitudinal study. Each patient completed the Catastrophizing scale of the Coping Strategies Questionnaire (CSQ) on 2 occasions separated by 6 months (time 1, time 2). The Catastrophizing scale is designed to measure negative self-statements, castastrophizing thoughts and ideation (sample items = 'I worry all the time about whether it will end,' 'It is awful and I feel that it overwhelms me'). Data analysis revealed that the Catastrophizing scale was internally reliable (alpha = 0.91) and had high test-retest reliability (r = 0.81) over a 6 month period. Correlational analyses revealed that catastrophizing recorded at time 1 was related to pain intensity ratings, functional impairment on the Arthritis Impact Measurement scale (AIMS), and depression at time 2. Predictive findings regarding catastrophizing while modest were obtained after controlling for initial scores on the dependent variables, demographic variables (age, sex, socioeconomic status), duration of pain, and disability support status. Taken together, these findings suggest that catastrophizing is a maladaptive coping strategy in RA patients. Further research is needed to determine whether cognitive-behavioral interventions designed to decrease catastrophizing can reduce pain and improve the physical and psychological functioning of RA patients.

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