Chronic pain patients' perception of their future: a verbal fluency task

Adina Rusu, Tamar Pincus

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Depression is a common feature of chronic pain, but the content of depressed cognitions in groups with chronic pain may be qualitatively different from other depressed groups. Future thinking has been extensively studied in depressed population, however, to our knowledge this is the first study to investigate future thinking, using a verbal fluency task, in chronic pain. This study investigated the content of cognitions about the future, which are postulated to be a key mechanism in the development of clinical depression, but have not been studies in groups with chronic pain. The present study used the Future Thinking Task (FTT) to investigate general future thinking and health-related future thinking in 4 groups of participants: those with pain and concurrent depression, those with pain without depression, those with depression without pain, and healthy control participants. 172 participants generated positive and negative future events, and rated the valence and likelihood of these events. Responses were coded for health-related content by two independent raters. Participants with depression (with and without pain) produced more negative and less positive future events than control participants. Participants with pain (depressed and non-depressed) produced more positive health-related future events than control participants. Participants with depression and pain produced more negative health-related future events than the non-depressed pain group. The findings suggest that participants with pain and depression exhibit a cognitive bias specific to negative aspects of health-related future thinking. This focus facilitates understanding of the relationship between depression and pain processing. The implications for therapeutic interventions are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171–178
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

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