Hypertension and appraisal of physical and psychological stressors

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    Objective: In the operant conditioning of hypertension hypothesis, it is assumed that the frequently found diminished sensitivity to painful stimuli in hypertensives can be generalized to sensitivity to other stressors, including psychological stressors. The validity of this assumption is examined in the present study. Methods: Unmedicated hypertensives (42) and normotensive controls (21) of both sexes were exposed to a physical stressor (electric current) and psychological active coping (mental arithmetic, free speech) and passive coping (unpleasant films) tasks, while indices of prestressor anxiety and task appraisal were measured. Results: Hypertensive women, but not men, showed diminished pain sensitivity, together with lower prestressor anxiety and a tendency to lower negative appraisal of the tasks, compared to their normotensive counterparts. In addition, positive correlations were obtained between pain sensitivity and negative appraisal of psychological stressors involving interpersonal threat (speech) and passive coping (films). Conclusion: Preliminary support has been obtained for extrapolation of diminished pain appraisal to appraisal of some psychological stressors (although for a part only in women); an important assumption in the operant conditioning hypothesis of hypertension.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)237-244
    JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


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