Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 263–276

Spontaneous cognitive strategies for the control of clinical pain and stress

  • John F. Chaves
  • Jude M. Brown

DOI: 10.1007/BF00846540

Cite this article as:
Chaves, J.F. & Brown, J.M. J Behav Med (1987) 10: 263. doi:10.1007/BF00846540


The spontaneous cognitive strategies employed by 75 patients undergoing dental extractions or mandibular block injections were elicited using a structured interview. Interest focused on the relationship between these strategies and several personality variables, including state and trait anxiety, locus of control, and absorption. In addition, the effect of strategy utilization on perceived pain and stress was assessed. Fourty-four percent of the patients employed cognitive strategies designed to minimize pain and stress, while 37% catastrophized, engaging in cognitive activity which exaggerated the fearful aspects of their experience. Only 19% of the patients denied any cognitive activity during the clinical procedure, and many of these used noncognitive coping strategies. Discriminant analysis revealed that situational anxiety was associated with the use of cognitive coping strategies. Catastrophizing was associated with increasing age, past dental stress, and higher levels of stress vulnerability (high trait anxiety and external locus of control). Copers reported less stress than catastrophizers but not less pain.

Key words

cognition pain dental anxiety stress management 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • John F. Chaves
    • 1
  • Jude M. Brown
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Dental MedicineSouthern Illinois UniversityAlton
  2. 2.University of Utah Medical CenterSalt Lake City