A psychophysical evaluation of the relationship between trait anxiety, pain perception, and induced state anxiety

J Pain. 2005 Sep;6(9):612-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2005.03.009.


The present study examined the interactive effects of state and trait anxiety on pain threshold and subjective pain intensity. State anxiety was manipulated in 15 low trait anxious (LTA) individuals and 17 high trait anxious (HTA) individuals, who rated their anxiety level and subjective pain intensity in response to noxious electrical experimental pain stimuli. A difference in pain threshold between HTA and LTA participants was not found; however, higher state anxiety led to an increase in reported pain intensity for all participants. Furthermore, HTA individuals reported significantly higher levels of anxiety and pain intensity than LTA individuals across all pain and anxiety conditions. There was no interaction between state and trait anxiety on pain perception and anxiety ratings. These findings show an additive rather than synergistic effect between state-trait anxiety and subjective pain intensity.

Perspective: Use of anxiety-reducing techniques for individuals experiencing pain might reduce the perceived severity/intensity of pain. Furthermore, individuals with higher trait anxiety (a greater disposition to experience anxiety) might benefit from these techniques because higher trait anxious individuals tend to exacerbate perceived pain stimulations more than lower trait anxious individuals.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / complications*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / complications*
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Behavior Therapy / trends
  • Causality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Measurement / psychology*
  • Pain Threshold / physiology*