The effects of gender and coping on the perception of pain

Ellery, Deborah Ann. 2004. The effects of gender and coping on the perception of pain. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Human pain perception is now known to be mediated by the complex and dynamic interaction of biological and psychosocial systems. Research with both clinical and nonclinical populations has identified an array of factors which can influence pain, amongst which gender has become the focus of increased interest in recent years. However, although females generally seem to have lower experimental pain thresholds, report higher levels of pain and demonstrate lower pain tolerance than males, the pain research literature is characterised by conflicting findings regarding the direction, magnitude and robustness of such gender effects. Furthermore, gender differences may not occur equally with all types of noxious stimuli.

Investigating the impact of gender on pain is greatly complicated by the fact that gender in itself comprises both biological and psychological components. Gender-differentiated pain responses are therefore likely to involve physiological mechanisms such as the effects of gonadal hormones, as well as psychosocial determinants such as emotional responses and ways of coping. In this thesis, a series of controlled experiments was conducted to investigate the effects of gender and cognitive coping on cold pressor pain perception in healthy, pain-free individuals. The cold pressor paradigm was selected because relatively few previous studies have directly examined gender differences in this type of experimentally-induced pain. In light of potential fluctuations in female pain sensitivity as a function of hormonal status, cold pressor responses and the effectiveness of cognitive coping were also investigated in different phases of the menstrual cycle.

Gender differences in pain responses were evident here, but such differences occurred inconsistently across the series of experiments. Cognitive coping was found to have very limited impact overall, and no effects of menstrual phase were found on pain responses or on coping. These findings are discussed within a biopsychosocial framework of pain perception.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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the cold pressor paradigm, cognitoive coping, menstrual phase, physiological mechanisms

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Date Deposited:

29 Jun 2020 08:38

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:44


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