Cognitive coping style and the effectiveness of distraction or sensation-focused instructions in chronic pain patients


Aim This study set out to investigate whether cognitive coping strategies that match participants' preferred coping style effectively reduce pain intensity and situational anxiety in a population of people with chronic pain. Method Chronic pain patients (N = 43) completed questionnaires on coping style, pain intensity, self-efficacy, and situational/trait anxiety. Participants were classified as Monitors (n = 16) or Blunters (n = 19) based on their Miller Behavioural Style Scale score. Participants were then provided with an audiotaped intervention in which they were instructed to focus on pain sensations or to engage in a distraction task and then to rate the pain intensity and their anxiety during and after the attentional focus and distraction conditions. The two interventions were each completed by all participants, having been presented in counterbalanced order. Results Findings revealed that Monitors' level of anxiety decreased following a congruent (i.e., sensation-focused) intervention. No effects were obtained in terms of perceived pain. For blunters, however, their perceived levels of anxiety and pain did not attenuate following a congruent, distraction-focused intervention. Conclusion Among persons experiencing chronic pain, tailoring coping strategies to match an individual's preferred coping style-in particular, those with a high level of monitoring-may enhance the benefit of psychological approaches to management of anxiety

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