Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 908–915 | Cite as

The “self” in pain: the role of psychological inflexibility in chronic pain adjustment

  • Silvia Sze Wai Kwok
  • Esther Chin Chi Chan
  • Phoon Ping Chen
  • Barbara Chuen Yee LoEmail author


Self-discrepancy occurs when a person feels the failure to fulfill one’s hopes or responsibilities. Although self-discrepancy has been widely examined to elucidate patients’ chronic pain adjustment, the underlying mechanism is unclear. The present study proposes that the effect of self-discrepancy on pain outcomes is accounted for by psychological inflexibility, which involves the psychological processes that guide behaviors in the pursuit of goals and values. One-hundred patients with chronic pain were recruited from a public hospital. They were invited to participate in a semi-structured interview regarding their self-discrepancy and complete self-reported questionnaires regarding their psychological inflexibility and pain outcomes. The results confirmed that psychological inflexibility partly accounts for the variance observed between self-discrepancy and pain outcomes. The current study provides additional insight into the mechanism underpinning the impact of self-discrepancy on patients’ pain adjustment and offers clinical implications regarding the use of acceptance commitment therapy for chronic pain management.


Chronic pain Self-discrepancy Psychological inflexibility Acceptance Goal pursuit 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Silvia Sze Wai Kwok, Esther Chin Chi Chan, Phoon Ping Chen and Barbara Chuen Yee Lo declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvia Sze Wai Kwok
    • 1
  • Esther Chin Chi Chan
    • 2
  • Phoon Ping Chen
    • 2
  • Barbara Chuen Yee Lo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of Hong KongHong Kong SARChina
  2. 2.Pain Management Clinic, Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole HospitalHong Kong SARChina

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