Objective Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in patients with chronic pain. However, the efficacy of CBT for impaired empathy has not been studied in this population. We investigated the effect of CBT on empathy in patients with chronic pain. Methods Patients with severe chronic pain were recruited. Empathy was assessed before and after CBT using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). The patients underwent eight sessions over the course of 1 month conducted. Additional symptoms were assessed using the Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ), Beck Depression Inventory, Beck Anxiety Inventory, World Health Organization Quality of Life Scale Abbreviated Version, and the Scale for Suicide Ideation. Results A total of 26 participants were included. Pre-CBT pain severity assessed using the SF-MPQ was significantly correlated with the IRI-empathic concern subscale score (p=0.021), and the relationship remained significant after adjusting for sex, age, education level, and marital status. After CBT, the IRI-perspective-taking subscale scores (p=0.004) increased significantly and the IRI-personal distress subscale scores (p=0.013) decreased significantly in all participants. The SF-MPQ scores increased significantly (p=0.021). Conclusion CBT improved empathy in patients with chronic pain independent of its effect on pain, suggesting that CBT is useful for improving interpersonal relationships in patients with chronic pain.
- Chronic pain
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy