Perceived Control of Pain Contributes to Reduced Pain Ratings and Accurately Recalling Pain

Abstract

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Past research suggests that self-efficacy, people’s convictions in their own effectiveness, determines whether coping behavior and effort will be exerted during aversive experiences. People with high self-efficacy tend to perform better and have decreased emotional arousal compared to those with low self-efficacy. Research on the recall of aversive experiences needs more investigation, especially in regards to accuracy in remembering past events. The purpose of this research was to examine how self-efficacy of pain impacts pain intensity ratings, recall of pain intensity two weeks after the painful experience, and accuracy in recalling pain. Participants (N=147) underwent an acute laboratory pain task. Participants made pain intensity ratings throughout the procedure and an overall pain intensity rating 2 weeks after the procedure. Participants self-reported their self-efficacy of pain. Participants who had high self-efficacy for pain reported less pain throughout the procedure, in their 2-week recall of pain, and tended to be more accurate at recalling their pain compared to participants with low self-efficacy. This research has implications for clinical settings as accurately recalling pain intensity is beneficial in receiving appropriate treatment. Additionally, having high self-efficacy for pain allows one to have perceived control over the aversive experience. This is beneficial for withstanding painful stimuli (i.e., painful procedures) and resiliency after painful experiences. Through teaching effective coping skills via self-efficacy, clinicians can not only alter patients’ experiences at the time but also increase their accuracy in recalling the painful experience in the future which has implications for future health seeking behaviors.