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Papers of the Week

Papers: 15 Jul 2023 - 21 Jul 2023

Commentary/Perspective, Psychology

Human Studies


2023 Jul 11

J Pain


Pain Catastrophizing: Controversies, Misconceptions and Future Directions.


Sullivan MJ, Tripp DA


Recent reports have pointed to problems with the term ‘pain catastrophizing’. Critiques of the term pain catastrophizing have come from several sources including individuals with chronic pain, advocates for individuals with chronic pain, and pain scholars. Reports indicate that the term has been used to dismiss the medical basis of pain complaints, to question the authenticity of pain complaints, and to blame individuals with pain for their pain condition. In this paper, we advance the position that the problems prompting calls to rename the construct of pain catastrophizing have little to do with the term, and as such, changing the term will do little to solve these problems. We argue that continued calls for changing or deleting the term pain catastrophizing will only divert attention away from some fundamental flaws in how individuals with pain conditions are assessed and treated. Some of these fundamental flaws include the inadequate training of health and allied health professionals in 1) evidence-based models of pain, 2) in the use of psychological assessment and intervention tools for the clinical management of pain, and 3) in gender equity and anti-racism. Critiques that pain scholars have leveled against the defining, operational and conceptual bases of pain catastrophizing are also addressed. Arguments for reconceptualizing pain catastrophizing as a worry-related construct are discussed. Recommendations are made for remediation of the problems that have contributed to calls to rename the term pain catastrophizing. PERSPECTIVE: The issues prompting calls to rename the construct of pain catastrophizing have their roots in fundamental flaws in how individuals with pain are assessed and treated. Efforts to address these problems will require more than a simple change in terminology.