Chronic Pain Under Missile Attacks: Role of Pain Catastrophizing, Media, and Stress-Related Exposure

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Abstract

Objective: We examined the effects of exposure to missile attacks on patients’ pain and depressive symptoms, moderated by pain-related catastrophizing. Method: One-hundred Israeli chronic pain patients were assessed both prior and subsequent to military operation “Protective Edge,” during which thousands of missiles landed on populated areas across the country. Baseline assessment included pain, depression, and catastrophizing, and postwar assessment tapped exposure to missiles, pain, and depression. Results: Media exposure predicted an increase in sensory pain under high levels of catastrophizing (1 SD above the mean; unstandardized simple slope = 0.57, p = .01), and depression in the entire sample (b = 0.61, p = .01). Perceived stress related to the missiles exhibited an expected effect, predicting an increase in depressive symptoms (b = 1.45, p = .03). Unexpectedly, perceived stress predicted a decrease in sensory pain under high levels of catastrophizing (unstandardized simple slope = −0.49, p = .02). Conclusions: Media exposure to acute stress may render chronic pain patients more vulnerable to experiencing pain and depressive symptoms, depending on their use of pain-based catastrophizing. High catastrophizers may attend more to outside threats, amplifying the sensory and affective aspects of pain they experience. Perceived stress also plays a significant role in eliciting depressive symptoms in this population.

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