Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 577-586

First online:

Role of anxiety sensitivity in pain-related fear and avoidance

  • Gordon J. G. AsmundsonAffiliated withDepartment of Rehabilitation Research, Wascana Rehabilitation Centre
  • , Steven TaylorAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia

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Anxiety sensitivity (AS) is the fear of anxiety-related bodily sensations, arising from beliefs that the sensations have harmful consequences. There has been a good deal of research on the role of AS in anxiety disorders, and only recently have investigators begun to assess its role in other conditions. In a preliminary report, Asmundson and Norton (1995) found that chronic back-pain patients with high AS (n=14), compared to those with lower AS (n=56), reported greater pain-related fear, and tended to have greater avoidance. The present study further investigated the role of AS in pain-related fear and escape/avoidance. Patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain (N=259) completed measures of AS, pain severity, and pain-related fear and escape/avoidance. Structural equation modeling supported the prediction that AS directly exacerbates fear of pain, even after controlling for the effects of pain severity on fear of pain. Support also was found for the prediction that AS indirectly promotes pain-related escape/avoidance via its influence on fear of pain. This indirect effect was significant even when controlling for the direct influence of pain severity on pain-related escape/avoidance. These results suggest that AS plays an important role in pain-related fear and escape/avoidance in people with chronic pain.

Key Words

anxiety sensitivity avoidance fear pain