Negative Interpretation Bias and the Experience of Pain in Adolescents.
Heathcote LC., Koopmans M., Eccleston C., Fox E., Jacobs K., Wilkinson N., Lau JY.
UNLABELLED: Negative interpretation bias, the tendency to appraise ambiguous situations in a negative or threatening way, has been suggested to be important for the development of adult chronic pain. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the role of a negative interpretation bias in adolescent pain. We first developed and piloted a novel task that measures the tendency for adolescents to interpret ambiguous situations as indicative of pain and bodily threat. Using this task in a separate community sample of adolescents (N = 115), we then found that adolescents who catastrophize about pain, as well as those who reported more pain issues in the preceding 3 months, were more likely to endorse negative interpretations, and less likely to endorse benign interpretations, of ambiguous situations. This interpretation pattern was not, however, specific for situations regarding pain and bodily threat, but generalized across social situations as well. We also found that a negative interpretation bias, specifically in ambiguous situations that could indicate pain and bodily threat, mediated the association between pain catastrophizing and recent pain experiences. Findings may support one potential cognitive mechanism explaining why adolescents who catastrophize about pain often report more pain. PERSPECTIVE: This article presents a new adolescent measure of interpretation bias. We found that the tendency to interpret ambiguous situations as indicative of pain and bodily threat may be one potential cognitive mechanism explaining why adolescents who catastrophize about pain report more pain, thus indicating a potential novel intervention target.