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Childhood adversities and laboratory pain perception

Authors Pieritz K, Rief W, Euteneuer F

Received 30 April 2015

Accepted for publication 8 June 2015

Published 19 August 2015 Volume 2015:11 Pages 2109—2116

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S87703

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Xiang Mou

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder


Karoline Pieritz, Winfried Rief, Frank Euteneuer

Division of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Philipps University Marburg, Marburg, Germany

Abstract: Childhood adversity has frequently been related to a wide range of psychosomatic complaints in adulthood. The present study examined the relationship between different forms of childhood adversity and laboratory measures of pain. Heat pain tolerance and perceived heat pain intensity were measured in a community-based sample of 62 women (aged 20–64 years). Participants completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), which assesses five forms of childhood adversity: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Somatic symptoms, depressive symptoms, and pain catastrophizing were assessed as potential mediators. Bivariate analyses indicated that emotional abuse but no other forms of childhood adversity were significantly related to decreased heat pain tolerance (r=-0.27; P<0.05). Accordingly, multiple regression analyses revealed that only emotional abuse was a significant predictor of heat pain tolerance (β=-0.62; P=0.034) when entering all CTQ subscales simultaneously. Although emotional abuse was also related to somatic symptoms, depressive symptoms, and pain catastrophizing, none of these variables mediated the relationship between childhood adversity and laboratory pain (P>0.1). No significant associations were found between any forms of childhood adversity and heat pain intensity. Our findings indicate that the severity of emotional childhood abuse is associated with decreased pain tolerance, an affective component of pain, but not with heat pain intensity, which has been described as a sensory component of pain.

Keywords: childhood adversity, emotional abuse, pain tolerance, pain intensity, somatic symptoms

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