Gender Differences in Pain and Pain Behavior: The Role of Catastrophizing

Abstract

This research examined gender differences in catastrophizing and pain in 80 healthy students (42 women, 38 men) who participated in an experimental pain procedure. Participants completed the Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS; Sullivan, Bishop & Pivik, 1995) prior to immersing one arm in ice water for 1 minute. Participants were later interviewed to assess the strategies they used to cope with their pain. Independent raters examined videotape records and coded participants' pain behavior during and following the ice water immersion. Results showed that women reported more intense pain and engaged in pain behavior for a longer period of time than men. When PCS scores were statistically controlled, gender was no longer a significant predictor of pain or pain behavior. For women, the helplessness subscale of the PCS contributed unique variance to the prediction of pain and pain behavior. For men, none of the PCS subscales contributed unique variance to the prediction of pain and pain behavior. Discussion addresses the social learning factors that may contribute to gender differences in pain. Discussion also addresses the limitations and clinical implications of the findings.

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Sullivan, M.J.L., Tripp, D.A. & Santor, D. Gender Differences in Pain and Pain Behavior: The Role of Catastrophizing. Cognitive Therapy and Research 24, 121–134 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005459110063

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  • pain
  • pain behavior
  • catastrophizing
  • gender differences