We have seen from other articles that I have already published on this site that many professionals who work within the field of mental health consider borderline personality disorder (BPD) to be the most psychologically and emotionally painful psychiatric condition there is. On top of this terrible mental suffering, many individuals with BPD also must endure considerable physical pain that is psychogenic in nature i.e. pain that is caused, exacerbated or made chronic due to their underlying mental problems.
Examples of psychogenic pain include:
- back pain
- stomach pain
- muscular pain
Those with BPD may be particularly prone to the experience of such psychogenic pain in response to highly emotionally charged, traumatic events such as loss and separation e.g. rejection by friends and family or the break-up of a romantic attachment. Psychogenic pain is also associated with emotions such as anger, helplessness, agitation, impatience, feelings of emptiness.
Stress, too, which those with BPD are exquisitely vulnerable to, is fundamentally associated with psychogenic pain (there are myriad ways in which high and chronic levels of stress causes physiological damage to the body and stress, therefore, can not only contribute to psychogenic pain but also to psychosomatic disease (e.g. heart disease).
PSYCHOGENIC PAIN SHOULD BE TAKEN JUST AS SERIOUSLY AS PAIN WITH A PATHOPHSIOLOGICAL CAUSE
It is important to point out, however, that just because a person’s experience of pain is not caused by pathophysiological factors, the subjective experience of such pain can be just as acute, or more acute, than such pain that IS caused by pathophysiology. In other words: IT HURTS JUST AS MUCH. As such, it does not seem fair that there is often such a glaring disparity between how the two types of pain are treated within the medical profession.
It is thought that psychogenic pain can be generated by both conscious psychological problems and by unconscious ones.
Pain is only diagnosed as psychogenic in nature when all other causes of the pain have been investigated and eliminated. Often, a person suffering from psychogenic pain will also meet the criteria to be diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety.
INFLUENCES ON THE PAIN WE EXPERIENCE
Studies suggest that pain can be:
- affected by our emotional state (as illustrated above)
- affected by expectations
- affected by cultural norms
- affected by neurotransmitter levels e.g. if levels of 5-hydroxyl tryptamine (5HT) levels become too low as a result of interaction with cortisol (known as the ‘stress hormone’) an individual’s pain threshold becomes lower i.e. when suffering from severe, chronic stress, one is likely to be more sensitive to pain (Morris CG and Maisto, Understanding Psychology, Sixth Edition).
Furthermore, extreme shock and fear can decrease feelings of pain.
Pain associated with trauma is frequently performed in three stages:
- reintegration (in relation to this, you may wish to read my previously published article: Three Stage Of Complex PTSD Treatment: Stabilization, Therapy And Reintegration).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
Allaverdi, E., Psychosomatic Pain DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.91328. 2020
Morris CG and Maisto, Understanding Psychology, Sixth Edition. Pearson Education (US). 2002.
David Hosier MSc holds two degrees (BSc Hons and MSc) and a post-graduate diploma in education (all three qualifications are in psychology). He also holds UK QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). He has worked as a teacher, lecturer and researcher. His own experiences of severe childhood trauma and its emotional fallout motivated him to set up this website, childhoodtraumarecovery.com, for which he exclusively writes articles. He has written several books on topics related to childhood trauma.
He has published several books including The Link Between Childhood Trauma And Borderline Personality Disorder, The Link Between Childhood Trauma ANd Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and How Childhood Trauma Can Damage The Developing Brain (And How These Effects Can Be Reversed).
He was educated at the University of London, Goldsmith’s College where he developed his interest in childhood experiences leading to psychopathology and wrote his thesis on the effects of childhood depression on academic performance.
This site has been created for educational purposes only.