, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 211-221
Date: 01 Apr 2010

Anger Suppression Predicts Pain, Emotional, and Cardiovascular Responses to the Cold Pressor

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Abstract

Background

Manipulated anger suppression has been shown to heighten pain and anger responses to pain.

Purpose

We examined whether individual differences in self-reported anger suppression predicted pain, anger, and blood pressure responses to acute pain.

Methods

Healthy participants (N = 47) underwent an anger-provoking speech task followed by a cold pressor pain task. Participants reported their degree of suppression of thoughts and feelings related to the speech. Pain intensity ratings were obtained throughout the cold pressor. Self-reported anger, anxiety and positive emotion, as well as ratings of sensory, general distress, and anger-specific elements of pain were obtained following the cold pressor. Systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and heart rate (HR) were recorded throughout.

Results

Self-reported suppression predicted greater pain intensity ratings, perception of sensory and anger-specific elements of pain, and self-reported anger in response to the cold pressor. Associations between self-reported suppression and pain intensity and ratings of anger-specific elements of pain were statistically mediated by pain-induced changes in self-reported anger, whereas the effect of suppression on sensory pain ratings was not. Self-reported suppression was also correlated inversely with SBP responses to the cold pressor.

Conclusions

Consistent with an ironic process model and prior studies involving experimental manipulation of suppression, self-reported suppression of anger predicted greater pain intensity and perception of the anger-specific element of pain. Findings also suggest that suppression might attenuate homeostatic pressor responses to acute pain.