Anger regulation style, anger arousal and acute pain sensitivity: evidence for an endogenous opioid “triggering” model
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- Burns, J.W., Bruehl, S. & Chont, M. J Behav Med (2014) 37: 642. doi:10.1007/s10865-013-9511-z
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Findings suggest that greater tendency to express anger is associated with greater sensitivity to acute pain via endogenous opioid system dysfunction, but past studies have not addressed the role of anger arousal. We used a 2 × 2 factorial design with Drug Condition (placebo or opioid blockade with naltrexone) crossed with Task Order (anger-induction/pain-induction or pain-induction/anger-induction), and with continuous Anger-out Subscale scores. Drug × Task Order × Anger-out Subscale interactions were tested for pain intensity during a 4-min ischemic pain task performed by 146 healthy people. A significant Drug × Task Order × Anger-out Subscale interaction was dissected to reveal different patterns of pain intensity changes during the pain task for high anger-out participants who underwent pain-induction prior to anger-induction compared to those high in anger-out in the opposite order. Namely, when angered prior to pain, high anger-out participants appeared to exhibit low pain intensity under placebo that was not shown by high anger-out participants who received naltrexone. Results hint that people with a pronounced tendency to express anger may suffer from inadequate opioid function under simple pain-induction, but may experience analgesic benefit to some extent from the opioid triggering properties of strong anger arousal.