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Goal conflict, distress, and pain in women with fibromyalgia: A daily diary study – Source: Journal of Psychosomatic Research, June 2011

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Objectives: A chronic illness such as fibromyalgia can interfere with daily activities and goals by limiting available resources, including time and energy. This leads to competition between goals, known as goal conflict.

The purpose of this study was to determine if goal conflict increases symptoms in women with fibromyalgia and whether symptoms lead to perceptions of goal conflict.

Methods: Women with fibromyalgia (N=27) recorded their pain, emotional distress, and fatigue each morning and evening for five consecutive days.

Each evening, they listed that day’s goals, rating goals on their level of conflict.

Goal conflict was also rated by independent raters, and a difference score reflected goal conflict discrepancy.


• On days with higher goal conflict, pain increased more from morning to evening (?=1.71, 95% confidence interval=0.32-3.09, P<.05).

• On days with higher morning emotional distress, goal conflict was overestimated (?=0.075, 95% confidence interval=0.035-0.116, P<.05).

• Women who had a higher symptom burden also typically overestimated their goal conflict relative to those with fewer symptoms (P<.05 for all).


• Goal pursuit may deplete psychological and physical resources in this vulnerable population, resulting in higher pain.

• Conversely, emotional distress may affect perception of goal conflict, resulting in less ambitious goal pursuit.

• Understanding the dynamic relationship between goal conflict and fibromyalgia symptoms may lead to more effective management of limited resources and pursuit of daily goals with fibromyalgia.

Source: Journal of Psychosomatic Research, June 2011;70(6):534-40. PMID:
21624576, by Hardy JK, Crofford LJ, Segerstrom SC. Department of Psychology and Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA. [Email: scsege0@uky.edu]

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