OBJECTIVE: To examine differences between high and low catastrophizers in terms of pain, self-medication, coping, age and sex.DESIGN: Data were collected from 651 junior high students. Coping was assessed in response to pain in general. Pain (intensity and frequency) and self-medication were assessed in response to five types of pain: headache, stomach, muscle and/or joint and/or back, ear and/or throat, and menstrual pains.RESULTS: Catastrophizing groups were formed based on scores from the upper and lower thirds of a catastrophizing scale. The high catastrophizing group had higher levels of pain intensity and frequency for all five types of pain, and self-medicated more for headache, and ear and/or throat pain, compared with the low catastrophizing group. High catastrophizers reported taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication more frequently than low catastrophizers. High catastrophizers used information seeking, problem solving, social support seeking, positive self-statements and externalization more often than low catastrophizers. Low catastrophizers used behavioural and cognitive distraction more often than high catastrophizers. High catastrophizers perceived themselves to have more difficulty in dealing with pain and less control over their emotions when in pain than low catastrophizers. There were no significant differences between high and low catastrophizers in terms of controllability of pain. There was a higher percentage of catastrophizers in grade 9 than in grades 7 or 8 and a higher percentage of girls catastrophizing than boys.CONCLUSIONS: More frequent use of coping strategies while experiencing greater pain intensity and frequency may reflect catastrophizers' general inability to reduce pain. Greater use of OTC medications by catastrophizers is likely due to their experiences of more frequent and intense pain.