The effect of anxiety sensitivity and gender on the experience of pain

Edmund Keogh, Julie Birkby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Citations (SciVal)


Anxiety sensitivity is defined as a trait tendency to experience a fear of anxiety-related sensations. Although closely associated with panic disorder, recent research suggests that anxiety sensitivity is related to a wider range of pathological conditions. Indeed, it has been noted that anxiety sensitivity may play a role in mediating negative experiences and sensations associated with pain. The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of anxiety sensitivity on reported negative sensations to experimentally induced pain. Measures of pain threshold and tolerance were taken, as were self-report measures of affective and sensory experiences. Because differences between males and females have been found with both anxiety sensitivity and pain experience, gender differences were also investigated. As expected, gender was found to moderate pain experiences. Females had a lower pain threshold and were less tolerant to pain than males. Gender differences were also found to be associated with sensory pain. However, this effect was dependent on levels of anxiety sensitivity. High anxiety sensitive females reported greater sensory pain than low anxiety sensitive females. No effect of anxiety sensitivity on sensory pain was found among males. These results are discussed in light of current models of anxiety sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-829
Number of pages17
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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