University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Adaptive versus maladaptive coping and beliefs and their relation to chronic pain adjustment


Tan G, Teo I, Anderson KO, Jensen MP



Publication Info:

Clinical Journal of Pain, 27(9):769-774


OBJECTIVES: Coping and beliefs are cornerstones to our understanding of adjustment to chronic pain. This study sought to test the hypothesis that maladaptive pain-related coping and beliefs are more strongly related to measures of patient adjustment than are adaptive coping and beliefs.
METHODS: A sample of 106 veterans with mixed chronic pain diagnoses in a multidisciplinary pain treatment program were administered measures of pain beliefs and pain coping, and composite scores were computed to reflect adaptive and maladaptive responses. Correlations between the composite scores and outcomes (pain intensity, pain interference, depression) were examined. Hierarchical multiple regressions were also conducted to estimate the independent contributions of adaptive and maladaptive responses.
RESULTS: The maladaptive response composite score was found to be significantly related to pain interference and depression, whereas both adaptive and maladaptive response composite scores were found to be significantly related to pain intensity. The maladaptive response composite showed stronger independent associations with pain interference and depression after controlling for demographic variables, pain intensity, and adaptive responses. Contrary to expectations, only the adaptive response composite showed an independent association with pain intensity.
DISCUSSION: The findings suggest that the relative importance of adaptive versus maladaptive beliefs and coping may differ as a function of the outcome domain in question. The findings support current cognitive-behavioral interventions that focus on reducing the frequency of maladaptive coping responses and beliefs as a way to improve patient functioning.

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