Abdominal pain can be a debilitating symptom for youth with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). Across various pediatric conditions, pain predicts adverse physical and mental health outcomes. Understanding mechanisms by which pain impacts outcomes is of critical importance to enhance the well-being of those with IBDs. Pain catastrophizing mediates the aforementioned relationships in other pediatric populations, but little research has examined its role in pediatric IBDs. Attention to the role of pain catastrophizing as a potential mediator in pediatric IBD is the important given unique elements of the pain experience for this population. This study aimed to examine pain catastrophizing as a potential mediator of the relationship between abdominal pain and adverse outcomes in youth with IBDs.
Seventy six youth (ages 11 to 18; M [SD] age=14.71 [1.80]) with IBD completed the Abdominal Pain Index (T1), Pain Catastrophizing Scale (T2, week 12), Revised Children’s Anxiety and Depression Scale (T3, week 20), and Functional Disability Inventory (T3, week 20).
Catastrophizing mediated the relationship between abdominal pain and both anxiety symptoms (b=1.61, Bias-Corrected Accelerated [BCa] CI, 0.25, 4.62) and functional disability (b=0.77, BCa CI, 0.15, 2.38). A direct effect of abdominal pain on low mood was also noted (b=1.17, BCa CI, 0.03, 2.50). Post hoc analyses examining mediation via catastrophizing subscales indicated that while magnification and rumination functioned as mediators, helplessness did not.
Findings are consistent with fear avoidance models and suggest that interventions directed at pain catastrophizing may be worthwhile in pediatric IBD populations, given catastrophizing-mediated relationships between pain and mental and physical health outcomes.