Psychogenic pain

Psychogenic pain

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Psychogenic pain, also called psychalgia, is physical pain
Pain is an unpleasant sensation often caused by intense or damaging stimuli such as stubbing a toe, burning a finger, putting iodine on a cut, and bumping the "funny bone."...

 that is caused, increased, or prolonged by mental, emotional, or behavioral factors.

Headache, back pain, or stomach pain are some of the most common types of psychogenic pain. It may occur, rarely, in persons with a mental disorder, but more commonly it accompanies or is induced by social rejection
Social rejection
Social rejection occurs when an individual is deliberately excluded from a social relationship or social interaction. The topic includes both interpersonal rejection and romantic rejection. A person can be rejected on an individual basis or by an entire group of people...

, broken heart
Broken heart
A broken heart is a common metaphor used to describe the intense emotional pain or suffering one feels after losing a loved one, whether through death, divorce, breakup, physical separation or romantic rejection....

, grief
Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions...

, love sickness
Love sickness
Being lovestruck is a non-medical term used to describe mental and physical symptoms associated with falling in love: 'love-struck. It means to be hit by are hit in your heart by the emotion of love'....

, or other such emotional events.

Suffering, or pain in a broad sense, is an individual's basic affective experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with harm or threat of harm. Suffering may be qualified as physical or mental. It may come in all degrees of intensity, from mild to intolerable. Factors of duration and...

 are often stigmatized, because both medical professionals and the general public tends to think that pain from psychological source is not "real". However, specialists consider that it is no less actual or hurtful than pain from other sources.

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage" (emphasis added). In the note accompanying that definition, the following can be found about pain that happens for psychological reasons:

Many people report pain in the absence of tissue damage or any likely pathophysiological cause; usually this happens for psychological reasons. There is usually no way to distinguish their experience from that due to tissue damage if we take the subjective report. If they regard their experience as pain and if they report it in the same ways as pain caused by tissue damage, it should be accepted as pain.

Medicine refers also to psychogenic pain or psychalgia as a form of chronic pain
Chronic pain
Chronic pain has several different meanings in medicine. Traditionally, the distinction between acute and chronic pain has relied upon an arbitrary interval of time from onset; the two most commonly used markers being 3 months and 6 months since the initiation of pain, though some theorists and...

 under the name of persistent somatoform pain disorder. Causes may be linked to stress, unexpressed emotional conflicts, psychosocial problems, or various mental disorders. Some specialists believe that psychogenic chronic pain exists as a protective distraction to keep dangerous repressed emotions such as anger or rage unconscious.

It remains controversial, however, that chronic pain might arise purely from emotional causes. Treatment may include psychotherapy
Psychotherapy is a general term referring to any form of therapeutic interaction or treatment contracted between a trained professional and a client or patient; family, couple or group...

, antidepressants, analgesics, and other remedies that are used for chronic pain in general.

See also

  • Psychogenic disease
    Psychogenic disease
    A psychogenic disease is a set of symptoms or complaints whose origin likely lies within the complex interactions of the frontal lobes of the brain and the system in which the complaint manifests...

  • Psychosomatic medicine
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
    Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body...

  • Psychological trauma
    Psychological trauma
    Psychological trauma is a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a traumatic event...

  • Pain disorder
    Pain disorder
    Pain disorder is when a patient experiences chronic pain in one or more areas, and is thought to be caused by psychological stress. The pain is often so severe that it disables the patient from proper functioning. Duration may be as short as a few days or as long as many years. The disorder may...