The relationship of locus of control to pain coping strategies and psychological distress in chronic pain patients.
Although behavioral scientists have long been interested in how an individual's locus of control relates to coping and adjustment, basic information remains to be gathered on the relevance of locus of control to adaptation to persistent pain. This study examined the relationship of locus of control orientation to pain coping strategies and psychological distress in chronic pain patients. Subjects were 62 chronic pain patients. All patients were administered: (1) the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Scales to assess locus of control, (2) the Coping Strategies Questionnaire to evaluate pain coping strategies, and (3) the Symptom Checklist-90 Revised to assess psychological distress. Correlational analyses revealed that patients who viewed outcomes as controlled by chance factors such as fate or luck tended to rely on maladaptive pain coping strategies and rated their abilities to control and decrease pain as poor. They also exhibited greater psychological distress. Regression analyses indicated that patients having a chance orientation toward locus of control were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms and to have higher overall levels of psychological distress. Chance locus of control also predicted greater reliance on diverting attention and praying/hoping in dealing with their pain. In addition, patients high on chance locus of control reported feeling helpless to deal effectively with their pain problem. Clinicians evaluating chronic pain patients need to be aware that patients who view outcomes as controlled by external factors such as chance may have deficits in pain coping strategies and may report greater psychological distress than patients who do not have this locus of control orientation.
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