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Pain-related catastrophizing as a risk factor for suicidal ideation in chronic pain

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Abstract

Living with chronic pain is associated with many deleterious outcomes, including a substantially increased risk of suicide. While many general risk factors for suicidal ideation and behavior have been identified, few studies have examined pain-related factors that confer increased or decreased risk for suicidality. The present study assessed individual differences in the use of pain-related coping strategies and pain-related catastrophizing as correlates of suicidal ideation in patients with chronic pain. A total of 1512 patients seeking treatment for chronic pain completed a variety of questionnaires assessing pain, coping, and psychosocial functioning. On written questionnaires, approximately 32% of this clinic sample reported some form of recent suicidal ideation. The two most consistent predictors of the presence and degree of suicidal ideation were the magnitude of depressive symptoms and the degree of pain-related catastrophizing, a maladaptive cognitive/emotional pain-coping strategy. Demographic and other pain-related variables such as pain severity and duration were not generally robust predictors of suicidal ideation in this sample of patients with chronic pain. These are the first findings to suggest a unique (e.g., independent of pain severity or depressive symptomatology) association between pain-coping strategies and suicide-related cognitions in the context of chronic pain. Further research in this area, including the addition of suicide prevention materials to pain-coping skills training programs, may benefit large numbers of individuals who are at elevated suicide risk as a consequence of chronic pain.

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