Comparison of stress responses in women with two types of chronic pain: Fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis

Alex J. Zautra, Nancy A. Hamilton, Healther M. Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Scopus citations


Two groups of older adult women with chronic pain were studied: 52 women with osteoarthritis (OA) and 50 women with a self-identified diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). These participants were administered measures of interpersonal stress, pain, pain coping, and personality attributes. The groups were comparable on most demographic variables and illness attributes. There were no differences between groups in personality attributes, but the FMS group used avoidance significantly more than the OA women when coping with pain. The groups did not differ in levels of interpersonal stress, but those with FMS who reported more interpersonal stress had higher pain, unlike OA participants. Fewer positive interpersonal interactions were reported by the FMS sample compared with the OA group, and those low scores were associated with more avoidant coping and greater reactivity to stressful interpersonal events. These findings suggest a dynamic pattern of adjustment to pain that leads to chronic difficulties. Self-imposed social isolation and other avoidant strategies of coping following pain episodes may lead to a reduction in close interpersonal ties. Loss of that source of positive social interaction appears to lead women to become more reactive to interpersonal stressors, cope more poorly with pain, and report a lower overall quality of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-230
Number of pages22
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 1999


  • Coping
  • Pain
  • Positive events
  • Stress response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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