Pain Coping and Catastrophizing in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Researchers identify pain factors to improve care for patients with lupus.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that has major implications for a patient’s physical and psychosocial functioning. A study published in the November 2015 issue of Lupus Science & Medicine has identified factors associated with pain coping and catastrophizing in patients with the disease.1

Disease-Specific Assessments and Treatments Not Enough in SLE

In their paper, Dr Julia Fischin and colleagues from Heinrich-Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany, suggested that boosting the factors associated with pain coping, or curtailing factors associated with catastrophizing, could lead the way to more effective care in patients with lupus. These patients frequently report fatigue and compromised quality of life as their most prominent and bothersome symptoms; not pain, arthritis, or skin manifestations, as their physicians might expect.2 Disease activity and cumulative damage in SLE frequently do not correspond proportionally to health-related quality of life, so physicians who focus solely on disease-specific assessments and treatments may be missing opportunities to improve patient outcomes. 3

Coping vs Catastrophizing

The investigators defined coping as “a set of intentional, goal-directed efforts people engage in to minimize physical, psychological, or social harm of an event or a situation.” Catastrophizing, in contrast, was defined as “a maladaptive cognitive style employed by patients that is associated with an irrationally negative forecast of future events.”