To examine relationships among trait anxiety sensitivity, state task-specific anticipatory anxiety, and laboratory pain responses in healthy children and adolescents.
Participants (N=118, 49.2% female, ages 8-18 years) completed a measure of anxiety sensitivity and rated anticipatory anxiety prior to undergoing thermal, pressure, and cold pain tasks. Linear and logistic regressions were used to test the hypothesis that anxiety sensitivity and anticipatory anxiety would predict incremental variance in pain response after controlling for sex, age, and anxious symptoms.
Anticipatory anxiety accounted for 35-38% of unique variance in pain report across tasks, and 10% of unique variance in thermal tolerance. Anxiety sensitivity was unrelated to pain responses.
Task-specific anxiety is an important predictor of pain report and, in certain cases, pain tolerance. Interventions designed to reduce task-specific anticipatory anxiety may help reduce pain responses in children and adolescents.