On the interaction of self-regulation, interoception and pain perception

Psychopathology. 2014;47(6):377-82. doi: 10.1159/000365107. Epub 2014 Oct 22.


Background: Interoceptive processes were found to be associated with better self-regulation capacities in healthy participants. Further empirical research suggests that interoceptive sensitivity is also important for the perception of pain both in healthy participants and in somatoform patients. Nevertheless, little is known about the interaction of interoceptive processes and self-regulation for pain. We therefore conducted a study examining the interaction of interoception and self-regulation in somatoform patients.

Methods: We investigated interoceptive sensitivity and self-regulatory capacities in 30 somatoform patients and 30 healthy controls when experimentally assessing pain threshold and pain tolerance.

Results: Interoceptive sensitivity was associated with better self-regulation capacities. Somatoform patients exhibited a significantly reduced interoceptive sensitivity and reduced self-regulatory capacities as assessed by self-report. Additionally, pain tolerance was significantly increased in somatoform patients as compared to controls.

Conclusions: Our findings highlight that interoceptive sensitivity differentially interacts with pain and self-regulation both in healthy participants and somatoform patients. This might provide ideas for novel therapeutic interventions, e.g. a combined training of interoceptive sensitivity with certain aspects of self-regulation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Interoception*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Perception*
  • Pain Threshold*
  • Pressure
  • Self Report
  • Social Control, Informal*
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*