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Determining Profiles of Pain-Specific and General Emotion Regulation Skills and Their Relation to 12-Month Outcomes Among People With Chronic Pain

Published:December 08, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2022.12.002

      Highlights

      • There are differences between general and pain-specific emotion regulation (ER).
      • Some people with chronic pain had skillful general and pain-specific ER.
      • Some people with chronic pain had general and pain-specific ER difficulties.
      • Most with chronic pain had difficulties with general ER.
      • Those with general and pain-specific ER difficulties had the worst outcomes.

      Abstract

      Difficulties with pain-specific emotion regulation (ER; eg, pain catastrophizing, pain acceptance) are associated with poor pain outcomes. Less is known about how general ER relates to pain outcomes, or the extent to which pain-specific and general ER interact. In a sample (N = 1,453) of adults with chronic pain, the current study used latent profile analysis to identify subgroups of people with distinct pain-specific and general ER profiles, and determined how subgroup membership at baseline related to pain severity, pain interference, depression and anxiety symptoms at 12-month follow-up. Four groups were identified: 1) general ER difficulties only (29.6%); 2) pain-specific and general ER difficulties (26.3%); 3) skillful pain-specific and general ER (24.6%); 4) pain-specific ER difficulties only (19.4%). Controlling for auto-correlation and demographic covariates, those with pain-specific and general ER difficulties had the worst outcomes in all domains. Membership to other groups did not differentiate between pain severity or interference outcomes; those skillful in pain-specific and general ER had the lowest depression and anxiety symptoms at 12 months. General ER difficulties are common among adults with chronic pain and raise relative risk when paired with pain-specific ER difficulties. Findings offer potential directions for individualizing pain psychology treatment.

      Perspective

      This article shows that people with chronic pain have different sets of strengths and difficulties when it comes to regulating emotions related and/or unrelated to the experience of pain itself. Understanding an individual's unique constellation of emotion regulation skills and difficulties might help personalize the psychological treatment of pain.

      Key words

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