Three fundamental fears are assumed to underlie psychopathology: Anxiety Sensitivity (AS), Injury/illness sensitivity (IS), and Fear of Negative Evaluation (FNE). Both AS and IS may form risk factors for the development and exacerbation of chronic pain. The current research examines the relation between these fears and automatic threat appraisal for pain-related stimuli. Study 1 (n = 48) additionally examined content-specific associations of AS and FNE with the automatic threat appraisal of, respectively, panic and social evaluative cues. Study 2 (n = 60) additionally focused on the association of IS and AS with the engagement in health protecting behavior, and the use of health care services. Both studies found evidence for an automatic threat appraisal of aversive stimuli. Study 2 demonstrated a positive association between the automatic threat appraisal for pain-related stimuli and individuals' IS levels. IS was found to be the single best predictor of the tendency to engage in health protecting behavior, whereas AS was the single best predictor of the reported use of health care services. Perspective: This study contributes to the field of knowledge on putative risk factors for chronic pain. Results demonstrate an automatic threat appraisal toward pain-related stimuli that is related to vulnerability traits for pain. This automatic threat appraisal might initiate relatively spontaneous (nonstrategic) pain-maintaining behavioral responses.
Vancleef, L. M. G., Peters, M. L., Gilissen, S. M. P., & de Jong, P. J. (2007). Understanding the role of injury/illness sensitivity and anxiety sensitivity in (automatic) pain processing: an examination using the extrinsic affective simon task. The Journal of Pain, 8, 563-572. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2007.02.431