An Exploration of the Processes that Underlie Pain and Emotion Regulation

Lead Research Organisation: Bangor University
Department Name: Sch of Sport Health and Exercise Sci


1.To confirm the relationship between alexithymia and pain in a sport context (e.g., distance running).
2.To determine if the relationship between alexithymia and post-exercise anxiety is mediated by pain.
3. To explore the degree to which alexithymia is involved in actively seeking pain to regulate affect.

Study 1 will test the hypothesis that that high levels of alexithymia will moderate the relationship between pain from running and anxiety. Specifically, we expect only alexithymic participants to experience reduced anxiety as a result of the pain endured from running.
In study 2, the hypothesis being tested will be that pain will significantly mediate the relationship between alexithymia and post-exercise anxiety whilst pre-exercise anxiety is a covariate.
Study 3 will explore the motivations behind participation in low-risk sports that involve pain for alexithymic individuals.

Proposed methodology:
Study 1 will be a large cross-sectional study across long-distance runners to establish the relationship between alexithymia, pain and anxiety whilst controlling for relevant constructs (e.g., other personality traits that are linked with self-harm, e.g. neuroticism). The data will be analysed via moderation analysis, with pain as the independent variable, post exercise anxiety as the dependent variable and alexithymia as the moderator.

Study 2 will involve participants with long-distance running experience in a laboratory-based setting. Participants will fill out the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20; Bagby, Parker, & Taylor, 1994). They will then complete the 40-item State Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Spielberger, 1983) to measure their state and trait anxiety. They will then complete a 10km time trial. Measurements of pain will be taken after every kilometre (1-10) using the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS; Scott & Huskisson, 1976). Once they have completed the run, participants will again complete the state section of the STAI. A mean score of pain will be created by summing the measured distance from the zero anchor to the participant's mark at each kilometre and dividing this total distance by the number of measures (10). The data will be analysed via mediation analysis (using the PROCESS macro in SPSS) in which alexithymia is the independent variable, the aggregated pain score is the mediator, post-exercise state anxiety is the dependent variable and pre-test anxiety is a covariate.

Study 3 will be a qualitative study with semi-structured interviews. The sample will be alexithymic individuals whom participate regularly in low-risk sports that involve pain. This study will explore participants' motivations for participating in their chosen sport, to see whether they are purposely seeking pain to regulate their emotions, and to pick up on any subtitles that may be missed by questionnaires.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2123115 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2022 Thomas Peter Rylands