Catastrophizing, ways of coping and pain beliefs in relation to pain intensity and pain-related disability

Christina Knussen, Joanna L. McParland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


While catastrophizing has been found to be related to self-reported pain intensity and disability, there is debate as to its theoretical meaning or role. The main aim of this analysis was to consider the roles of catastrophizing, ways of coping (from the Coping Strategies Questionnaire), and pain beliefs (from the Survey of Pain Attitudes) in the context of the Lazarus model of stress. Pain intensity (from the Chronic Pain Grade) was identified as the potential source of stress, and two variables were identified as indicative of the outcome of the stress process: pain-related disability (Roland-Morris Disability Scale) and psychological distress (GHQ), each residualized for the other. This was a secondary analysis of an existing cross-sectional database. The sample consisted of 95 members of support groups for people with chronic pain in Central Scotland, 86 of whom were female. Ages ranged from 43 to 93 years (M = 66 years). Measures were taken from self-report questionnaires. Catastrophizing was found to moderate, but not mediate, the Pain Intensity-Disability relationship, such that the relationship was no longer significant when catastrophizing scores were high. The relationships between catastrophizing, pain intensity and pain-related disability remained significant when psychological distress was controlled for. It was concluded that catastrophizing was conceptually distinct from distress. The results were to some extent consistent with a construction of catastrophizing as secondary appraisal. Further research at the within-person level is required to fully understand the transactional roles of catastrophizing, beliefs and ways of coping in the stress process over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-215
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pain Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • pain intensity
  • psychology
  • disability
  • pain perception


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