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Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 173–183 | Cite as

Executive Functions, Self-Regulation, and Chronic Pain: A Review

  • Lise Solberg Nes
  • Abbey R. Roach
  • Suzanne C. SegerstromEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

Background

Chronic pain conditions are complicated and challenging to live with. Capacity to adjust to such conditions may depend on the ability to self-regulate, that is, the ability to alter thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Self-regulation appears to rely on executive cognitive functions, and the current review, therefore, sought to draw attention to the impact of self-regulatory capacity and executive functions on chronic pain.

Discussion

Chronic pain conditions present with complex interactions of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physiological components for which self-regulatory ability is crucial. The ability to self-regulate varies, and self-regulatory strength appears to be a limited resource that can be fatigued. The many challenges of chronic pain conditions could, therefore, tax self-regulatory strength, leading to self-regulatory deficits.

Conclusion

The current review proposes a relationship among pain, self-regulatory capacity, self-regulatory demands, executive functions, and self-regulatory fatigue, suggesting that executive functions and self-regulatory deficits are indeed part of the etiology and maintenance of chronic pain conditions.

Keywords

Chronic pain Self-regulation Executive functions Self-regulatory capacity Self-regulatory fatigue 

Notes

Acknowledgement

The authors thank Charley R. Carlson, Leslie J. Crofford, and John Wilson for the helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lise Solberg Nes
    • 1
  • Abbey R. Roach
    • 1
  • Suzanne C. Segerstrom
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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