For several years, unremittingly, I was in a constant state of intense psychological torment. I realize this sounds melodramatic or exaggerated. It isn’t. In fact, no words can fully convey the intensity of the mental anguish from which I suffered.
I would complain to others I had a ‘terrible pain in my head’, neither physical nor solely mental, but some appalling, inarticulable, combination both. I constantly meditated on suicide as an escape : thinking about it, talking about it to anyone who would listen (other psychiatric inpatients when I was in hospital, cab drivers, even, once, when I was in a desperate state, sobbing, to complete strangers in a coffee bar – much to their alarm), planning it, researching how to do it online, buying various items to make it practicable (including, once, a rope with which to hang myself – a surprisingly complex purchase involving considerations of thickness, strength and length) and, more than once, attempting it. Indeed, the knowledge I could escape my pain by suicide was, ironically, the only reason I was able to endure it.
I told various psychiatrists about this, but, having experienced some psychiatrists to whom it was difficult to warm, I frequently felt paranoid in their presence and believed if I used terms like ‘psychological torment’ and ‘mental torture’ to describe my emotional state they’d regard me as an hysteric prone to exaggeration.
Instead, I used terms like ‘severe mental pain’ or ‘intense mental pain.’ Now, you’d think (would you not?) that that was putting it strongly enough to galvanize them into immediate and fervent therapeutic action. Stunningly, however, the usual response was a blank stare, a barely perceptible nod and a quick Biro jotting in their notebook (although I would not be surprised, in some cases, if they carried out this latter action because they were working on their shopping list at the time).
Another name for the mental anguish I describe is ALGOPSYCHALIA. This condition is particularly prevalent amongst people who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Indeed, research shows that those with BPD are worse affected by algopsychalia than are people with any other personality disorder and/or mood disorder (including bipolar and unipolar depression).
This is, perhaps, why approximately 10% of those suffering from BPD end their lives by suicide and why many, many more BPD suffers unsuccessfully attempt suicide.
It also helps to explain why so many BPD sufferers seek to escape their pain through any means possible, such as overeating, chain-smoking, taking illegal drugs, gambling, compulsive sex and physical self-harm (to detract attention from mental pain and to release endorphins into the brain) amongst other forms of dissociation.
There is some research to suggest that several weeks of treatment with paracetomal my help alleviate certain aspects of this mental suffering (this is theorized to be the case because aspects of both physical and mental pain are processed by the same brain regions). Always consult a doctor when considering taking medications to treat BPD and other serious conditions.
Learning, and then regularly practicing, mindfulness has also been shown to be of therapeutic value.
Hypnosis can be utilized to alter the meaning we attribute to pain and, by doing so, alter our perception of it.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).