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Reappraisal mitigates overestimation of remembered pain in anxious individuals


Anxiety sensitivity, a trait characterised by fear of anxiety-related body sensations, has been linked to heightened attention to pain, appraising body sensations as threatening, and remembering threat-related information. We assessed whether individuals with greater anxiety sensitivity overestimate in remembering pain. We also assessed whether emotion regulation strategies that direct attention away from pain (distraction), or alter appraisals of pain (reappraisal), alleviate memory bias. Participants (N = 137) were randomly assigned to one of two emotion regulation conditions or to a control condition before taking part in a cold pressor task. Greater anxiety sensitivity was associated with overestimation in remembering pain. Engaging in reappraisal mitigated this memory bias but engaging in distraction did not. This is the first study to examine the relations among anxiety sensitivity, emotion regulation and memory for pain. The findings suggest that health-care practitioners can encourage reappraisal to promote more positive memories of procedural pain, particularly in patients high in anxiety sensitivity.

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