Pain catastrophizing moderates the effects of pain-contingent task interruptions

M. G. S. Schrooten*, P. A. Karsdorp, J. W. S. Vlaeyen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A prominent behavioural consequence of pain is the temporary suspension of current activities with intent to resume them later. Little is known about the effects of such pain-contingent task interruptions. This experiment examines the influence of pain-contingent interruptions on the amount of time spent performing a cognitive achievement task: We expected that people would spend more time on task when task performance was interrupted in response to pain (vs. no interruption), and that negative mood and pain catastrophizing would enhance this negative impact. Methods: Healthy volunteers read behaviour descriptions until they felt they could form a good impression. Before task performance, participants underwent a negative or positive mood induction. During the task, all participants expected painful stimulation. Half of the participants in each mood induction group received an acute (electrocutaneous) pain stimulus, resulting in a 2-min break from the task. The other participants received no sensory stimulation during task performance and their performance was not interrupted. Results: Results revealed no effect of mood on task performance (i.e., total number of descriptions read). There was, however, a significant interaction between task interruption and pain catastrophizing, indicating that participants with low levels of catastrophizing tended to read more descriptions when performance was interrupted than when not, whereas participants reporting relatively high levels of catastrophizing showed the reverse behavioural pattern. Conclusions: The impact of pain-contingent task interruptions was reversed in participants reporting relatively high levels of pain catastrophizing. Results are discussed with regard to interruption management in the context of chronic pain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1082-1092
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013

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