Psychological "resilience" and its correlates in chronic pain: findings from a national community sample

Paul Karoly, Linda S Ruehlman
Pain 2006, 123 (1): 90-7
The display of effective functioning despite exposure to stressful circumstances and/or internal distress is often termed 'resilience'. The study of resilience is believed to provide information about the nature of illness adaptation that is distinct from that obtained via the analysis of clinically impaired groups. In recent years, the concept of resilience has seen only limited exploration in the chronic pain literature. This article describes a multi-step procedure that first identifies resilience among chronic pain sufferers selected from a national sample of adults and then examines a set of its psychological correlates. Using the Profile of Chronic Pain:Screen (PCP:S), administered to a national sample of adults with chronic pain, a resilient subsample was identified on the basis of high scores on a Severity scale (at least 1 SD above the mean) combined with low scores (at least 1 SD below the mean) on scales assessing Interference and Emotional Burden. An age- and gender-matched non-resilient subsample was then selected who scored high (at least one standard deviation above the mean) on Severity, Interference, and Emotional Burden. The results of a series of comparisons between the resilient and non-resilient groups revealed significant differences favoring resilient individuals in coping style, pain attitudes and beliefs, catastrophizing tendencies, positive and negative social responses to pain, and health care and medication utilization patterns. The findings provide a preliminary foundation for further research aimed at understanding the nature and causal underpinnings of resilience in persons with chronic pain.

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