Emotion regulation as a transdiagnostic factor underlying co-occurring chronic pain and problematic opioid use

Rachel V. Aaron, Patrick H. Finan, Stephen T. Wegener, Francis J. Keefe, Mark A. Lumley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Chronic pain is a common and costly condition, and some people with chronic pain engage in problematic opioid use. There is a critical need to identify factors underlying this co-occurrence, so that treatment can be targeted to improve outcomes. We propose that difficulty with emotion regulation (ER) is a transdiagnostic factor that underlies the cooccurrence of chronic pain and problematic opioid use (CP-POU). In this narrative review, we draw from prominent models of ER to summarize the literature characterizing ER in chronic pain and CP-POU. We conclude that chronic pain is associated with various ER difficulties, including emotion identification and the up-and down-regulation of both positive and negative emotion. Little research has examined ER specifically in CP-POU; however, initial evidence suggests CP-POU is characterized by difficulties with ER that are similar to those found in chronic pain more generally. There is great potential to expand the treatment of ER to improve pain-related outcomes in chronic pain and CP-POU. More research is needed, however, to elucidate ER in CP-POU and to determine which types of ER strategies are optimal for different clinical presentations and categories of problematic opioid use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)796-810
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Volume75
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Chronic pain
  • Emotion regulation
  • Problematic opioid use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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