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The impact of experiential avoidance on the relations between illness representations, pain catastrophising and pain interference in chronic pain

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Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the effects of experiential avoidance (EA) on the indirect relationship of chronic pain patients’ illness representations to pain interference, through pain catastrophising

Design and main outcome measure: The sample consisted of 162 patients diagnosed with an arthritis-related or a musculoskeletal disorder. The effects of EA on the pathway between illness representations, pain catastrophising and pain interference were examined with PROCESS, a computational tool for SPSS

Results: After controlling for patient and illness-related variables and pain severity, the ‘illness representations–pain catastrophising–pain interference’ pathway was interrupted at the higher levels of EA. The reason was that, at the high levels of EA, either the relation of illness representations to pain catastrophising or the relation of pain catastrophising to pain interference was not statistically significant.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that EA is not a generalised negative response to highly aversive conditions, at least as far as the factors examined in this study are concerned. EA may rather reflect a coping reaction, the impact of which depends on its specific interactions with the other aspects of the self-regulation mechanism. At least in chronic pain, EA should become the focus of potential intervention only when its interaction with the illness-related self-regulation mechanism results in negative outcomes.
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Keywords: chronic pain; experiential avoidance; illness representations; pain interference; self-regulation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, University of Crete, Rethymno, Greece 2: Department of Psychology, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus 3: The Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, Nicosia, Cyprus

Publication date: December 2, 2017

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