Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 211–221

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

  • Phillip J. Quartana
  • Sara Bounds
  • K. Lira Yoon
  • Burel R. Goodin
  • John W. Burns
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12160-010-9182-8

Cite this article as:
Quartana, P.J., Bounds, S., Yoon, K.L. et al. ann. behav. med. (2010) 39: 211. doi:10.1007/s12160-010-9182-8



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


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


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.


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.


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.


AngerAnger suppressionBlood pressureCardiovascular reactivityIronic processesPain

Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phillip J. Quartana
    • 1
  • Sara Bounds
    • 1
  • K. Lira Yoon
    • 2
  • Burel R. Goodin
    • 3
  • John W. Burns
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.University of MaineOronoUSA
  3. 3.West Haven Veteran’s Affairs Medical CenterWest HavenUSA
  4. 4.Rush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA