Self-Reported and Laboratory-Based Responses to Stress in Children with Recurrent Pain and Anxiety

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Objective To examine heart rate (HR) responses to and coping with stress in children with recurrent abdominal pain (RAP), anxiety, and healthy controls. Methods A clinical sample (children with RAP and children with anxiety) was compared to control children on self-reported and HR responses to stress and a laboratory test of pain tolerance and intensity (cold pressor). Results Children in the clinical sample had elevated HRs compared to healthy controls before, during, and after laboratory tasks. Self-reported stress reactivity to social stress was positively correlated with HR at all study time intervals. Secondary control coping with social stress was negatively correlated with HR at most study time intervals. Internalizing symptoms were positively correlated with HR and self-reported stress reactivity. Conclusions Stress reactivity, as reflected in both self-reported and HR responses to laboratory stressors, is related to the presence of both RAP and anxiety in children.

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