AbstractBackground and aimsContext insensitivity has been put forward as a potential mechanism explaining the high co-occurrence of pain and emotional distress. In the pain literature, the concept has only been introduced at a theoretical level and an assessment tool for exploring its impact is lacking. In an interpersonal setting, a core aspect of context sensitivity and insensitivity concerns when to disclose and when to avoid expressing pain and related distress. Both context insensitive disclosure and context insensitive avoidance may hamper interpersonal support and fuel the problem. This exploratory study describes an attempt to develop a self-report instrument to assess tendencies to disclose vs. avoid expressions of pain and related distress, as well as self-perceived adjustment of disclosure vs. avoidance to the context.MethodsApool of items was systematically developed to assess different aspects of context insensitivity, including disclosure vs. avoidance of expression. 105 participants with persistent pain were recruited at pain rehabilitation clinics (80% of the sample) and in a university setting (20% of the sample). The participants responded to the pool of items as well as to a number of validated self-report instruments covering pain, pain-related disability, pain catastrophizing, emotion regulation tendencies, self-compassion and pain acceptance. The analyses explored the factorial structure of the initial instrument, as well as the criterion and construct validity.ResultsThe analyses confirmed a stable underlying structure of the initial scale, with four distinct factors explaining 64.4% of the total variance. However, the criterion and construct validity could only be confirmed for one of the factors, which contained items reflecting context insensitive avoidance of expression. Consequently, only this factor, demonstrating very good internal consistency, was kept in the final version of the instrument which was named context insensitive avoidance (CIA).ConclusionsWe found support for the final version of our instrument, capturing one prominent aspect of context insensitivity. Avoidance of expression was related to higher ratings of pain, disability, catas- trophizing and suppression as well as to lower levels of self-compassion. We encourage further studies to explore the impact of context insensitive avoidance for regulating pain and associated negative emotions. Yet, more research is needed that goes beyond self-report and includes other aspects of context. It is urgent to develop systematic ways for assessing context insensitivity, as it will enhance our understanding of regulatory strategies as potential transdiagnostic mechanisms in pain and emotion.ImplicationsThis tool for assessing contextually insensitive avoidance of expression could potentially be used both clinically and in future research to advance our understanding of comorbid problems with pain and emotional distress. Further research is needed to develop methods for assessing other aspects of context insensitivity to fully understand its impact in patients suffering from pain.
Scandinavian Journal of Pain – de Gruyter
Published: Oct 1, 2017
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