Anxiety sensitivity, cognitive biases, and the experience of pain

Edmund Keogh, Mary Cochrane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Citations (SciVal)


It is becoming increasingly apparent that the tendency to be fearful of anxiety-related sensations, known as anxiety sensitivity, is closely associated with pain experiences. The aim of the current study was to determine the mechanisms by which such a relationship exists. Selective attentional and interpretative biases for negative material were compared as potential mediators of the anxiety sensitivity-pain relationship. With the cold pressor task, the current study found that high anxiety sensitivity participants exhibited a greater interpretative bias and reported more negative pain experiences than those low in anxiety sensitivity. A negative interpretative bias was also related to higher affective pain experiences. Most important, however, was that the tendency to misinterpret innocuous bodily sensations related to panic was found to mediate the association between anxiety sensitivity and affective pain experiences. These findings not only confirm that anxiety sensitivity plays an important role in the perception of experimental pain but also identify a potential cognitive mechanism by which this relationship exists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-329
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002


  • Anxiety sensitivity
  • Cognitive bias
  • Cold pressor
  • Pain
  • Panic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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