Emotion and pain are known to be intimately related, but treating co-occurring problems is still in its infancy mainly because we lack a clear theoretical understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved. This lack of understanding is problematic because treatment has proved challenging and co-occurring pain and emotional problems are associated with poor outcome, relapse, and greater sick absenteeism. Transdiagnostics has emerged as one way of focusing on the shared underlying mechanisms that drive comorbid problems. This approach has not been thoroughly examined for pain and emotion. Hence, the purpose of this review is to describe a transdiagnostic approach to pain and emotion and its clinical implications. To this end, the transdiagnostic approach is applied to pain and emotion in a narrative review of the literature. A focus on the function of emotion and pain relative to the context is underscored as a way to understand the relationship better. Avoidance, catastrophic worry, and thought suppression are put forward as three examples of potential transdiagnostic mechanisms that may underlie a co-occurring emotion and pain problem. The approach is readily translated to the clinic where assessment and treatment should focus on identifying transdiagnostic mechanisms. However, additional exploration is needed and therefore suggestions for future research are presented.
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