Pain in relation to emotion regulatory resources and self-compassion: a non-randomized correlational study involving recollected early childhood experiences and insecure attachment
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Submission date: 2018-07-11
Final revision date: 2019-02-05
Acceptance date: 2019-02-05
Online publication date: 2019-03-06
Publication date: 2019-03-07
Health Psychology Report 2019;7(1):19–31
Pain is common in most diseases and is usually treated by medical and physical approaches (medications, exercise). Limited attention has been given to whether non-medical approaches (such as emotion regulation abilities including self-compassion) can help further reduce the pain experienced. Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis), a painful and complex autoimmune connective tissue and vascular disease, was examined in this study in relation to psychological aspects of pain and the links of pain to (1) early life experiences, (2) current insecure attachment style, (3) physiological arousal (negative, hyper-arousal), and (4) personal emotion regulation (self-compassion). Knowledge about these relationships may help in the treatment of pain.

Participants and procedure:
Participants (120) from Australia (39) and the United Kingdom (81) completed an online or a hard copy survey; 78 participants remained for analysis after screening.

We found that poor or limited positive early life experiences and a current insecure (dismissive) attachment style contributed significantly to experiencing elevated levels of pain. We also found that negative early life experiences and limited emotion regulation (low self-compassion) predicted hyper-arousal, which in turn was associated with experienced pain. Insecure dismissive attachment style and hyper-arousal were significantly correlated.

These findings suggest that negative childhood experiences and an insecure dismissive attachment style may determine how emotional experiences are regulated or managed by individuals in disease-related pain. Implications include that interventions addressing attachment style and self-compassion may help reduce pain in the individuals concerned, thus helping supplement the effectiveness of current medication and physical approaches.

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