Patient Responses to the Term Pain Catastrophizing: Thematic Analysis of Cross-sectional International Data

Fiona Webster, Laura Connoy, Riana Longo, Devdeep Ahuja, Dagmar Amtmann, Andrea Anderson, Claire E. Ashton-James, Hannah Boyd, Christine T. Chambers, Karon F. Cook, Penney Cowan, Geert Crombez, Amanda B. Feinstein, Anne Fuqua, Gadi Gilam, Isabel Jordan, Sean C. Mackey, Eduarda Martins, Lynn M. Martire, Peter O'SullivanDawn P. Richards, Judith A. Turner, Christin Veasley, Hanne Würtzen, Su Yin Yang, Dokyoung S. You, Maisa Ziadni, Beth D. Darnall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Pain catastrophizing is understood as a negative cognitive and emotional response to pain. Researchers, advocates and patients have reported stigmatizing effects of the term in clinical settings and the media. We conducted an international study to investigate patient perspectives on the term pain catastrophizing. Open-ended electronic patient and caregiver proxy surveys were promoted internationally by collaborator stakeholders and through social media. 3,521 surveys were received from 47 countries (77.3% from the U.S.). The sample was mainly female (82.1%), with a mean age of 41.62 (SD 12.03) years; 95% reported ongoing pain and pain duration > 10 years (68.4%). Forty-five percent (n = 1,295) had heard of the term pain catastrophizing; 12% (n = 349) reported being described as a ‘pain catastrophizer’ by a clinician with associated high levels of feeling blamed, judged, and dismissed. We present qualitative thematic data analytics for responses to open-ended questions, with 32% of responses highlighting the problematic nature of the term. We present the patients’ perspective on the term pain catastrophizing, its material effect on clinical experiences, and associations with negative gender stereotypes. Use of patient-centered terminology may be important for favorably shaping the social context of patients’ experience of pain and pain care. Perspective: Our international patient survey found that 45% had heard of the term pain catastrophizing, about one-third spontaneously rated the term as problematic, and 12% reported the term was applied to them with most stating this was a negative experience. Clinician education on patient-centered terminology may improve care and reduce stigma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-367
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Patient Responses to the Term Pain Catastrophizing: Thematic Analysis of Cross-sectional International Data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this