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Pain Research and Management
Volume 7, Issue 1, Pages 21-30
Anxiety and Related Factors in Chronic Pain

Effects of Emotion on Pain Reports, Tolerance and Physiology

Leslie E Carter,1 Daniel W McNeil,1,2 Kevin E Vowles,2 John T Sorrell,2 Cynthia L Turk,1 Barry J Ries,1 and Derek R Hopko2

1Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA
2West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA

Copyright © 2002 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The effects of specific emotional states on a laboratory pain task were tested by examining the behavioural, verbal and psychophysiological responses of 80 student volunteers (50% female). Participants were assigned to one of four Velten-style emotion-induction conditions (ie, anxiety, depression, elation or neutral). The sexes of experimenters were counterbalanced. Overt escape behaviour (ie, pain tolerance), pain threshold and severity ratings, verbal reports of emotion and physiological measures (ie, electrocardiogram, corrugator and trapezium electromyogram) were recorded. A pressure pain task was given before and after the emotion induction. As predicted, those who participated in the anxiety or depression condition showed reduced pain tolerance after induction of these negative emotions; pain severity ratings became most pronounced in the depression condition. Emotion induction did not have a discernable effect on pain tolerance or severity ratings in the elation condition. A pattern of participant and experimenter sex effects, as well as trials effects, was seen in the physiological data. The influence of negative affective states (ie, anxiety and depression) on acute pain are discussed along with the unique contributions of behavioural, verbal and physiological response systems in understanding the interactions of pain and emotions.