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The role of neuroticism, pain catastrophizing and pain-related fear in vigilance to pain: a structural equations approach

Goubert, Liesbeta,b,∗,1; Crombez, Geerta,b; Van Damme, Stefaana,b

doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2003.11.005

The present study aimed at clarifying the precise role of pain catastrophizing, pain-related fear and personality dimensions in vigilance to pain and pain severity by means of structural equation modelling. A questionnaire survey was conducted in 122 patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain. Results revealed that pain catastrophizing and pain-related fear mediated the relationship between neuroticism and vigilance to pain. Furthermore, vigilance to pain was found to be associated with heightened pain severity. Finally, we found that neuroticism moderated the relationship between pain severity and catastrophic thinking about pain. The results strongly support the idea that vigilance to pain is dependent upon catastrophic thinking and pain-related fear. Neuroticism is best conceived of as a vulnerability factor; it lowers the threshold at which pain is perceived as threatening, and at which catastrophic thoughts about pain emerge.

aDepartment of Experimental–Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

bResearch Institute for Psychology and Health, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Corresponding author. Address: Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium. Tel.: +32–09–2646262; fax: +32–09–2646489


1Research Assistant of the Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders, Belgium, F.W.O.


Submitted June 19, 2003; revised October 27, 2003; accepted November 7, 2003.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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