It is imperative to assess the psychosocial factors that may influence the subjective experiences and pain behavior of persons with chronic unexplained chest pain. Both psychologists and physicians tend to rely on self-report measures of psychological distress, which provide little unique information about patients with chronic chest pain to differentiate them from patients with other painful disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or coronary artery disease. However, assessment of pain-coping strategies, spouse responses to the patient's pain behaviors, and pain thresholds for esophageal balloon distehtion do differentiate patients with chronic chest pain from healthy controls and patients with various other chronic pain disorders. Specifically, chronic chest pain patients tend to use relatively passive pain-coping strategies such as praying and hoping, and to report relatively high levels of spouse reinforcement of pain behaviors. Finally, in response to esophageal balloon distention, chronic chest pain patients display low pain thresholds that do not generalize to stimulation by mechanical finger pressure. Preliminary evidence suggests these low thresholds are due primarily to a tendency to set low standards for making pain judgments regarding esophageal stimuli of moderate-to-high intensity levels. © 1992 Reed Publishing USA.