Some people have pain that doctors tell them is “all in their heads.”
If you’re one of them, you may have gone from doctor to doctor looking for a solution. You may have tried everything to get relief from pain that feels very real but doesn’t have an explainable cause.
Despite how real these pain symptoms feel, the pain has no relation to any illness, disease, or physical problem.
However, is it actually true that this type of pain is made-up, or a figment of your imagination?
The basic theory behind psychosomatic pain suggests otherwise.
How Is Psychosomatic Pain Defined?
Psychosomatic pain – also called “psychogenic pain” – is a real diagnosis that requires treatment.
It occurs when a person experiences physical symptoms in some form without any apparent underlying cause. Doctors may use the term “medically unexplainable” if this is the case.
Here are some key, defining factors of this type of pain.
1. It’s “All in Your Head” – But It’s Real
Pain has to come from some source. It does not occur spontaneously but as the result of some type of factor, whether physical, environmental, emotional, or social.
People who have pain without rhyme or reason, or without a definable cause, may not have a quantifiable reason for their symptoms. However, their suffering is very real, according to The British Journal of Psychiatry.
2. It’s Linked to Mental and Emotional Triggers
Mental factors are a key ingredient in psychosomatic pain. The mind has been proven to cause physical symptoms and reactions as a result of intense emotions or mental distress.
For instance, according to the Patient web resource, stress and anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate, feeling nauseous, excessive sweating, chest pain, and dry mouth.
Similarly, a wide range of pain symptoms can come from unresolved mental issues. Thus, in order to relieve the pain, the underlying mental factors must be addressed.
What Are the Symptoms of Psychosomatic Illness?
Psychosomatic illness can produce varied symptoms all over the body. Common ones include chest pain, abdominal pain, muscle or joint pain, toothaches, headaches or migraines, and neck pain.
In general, to get diagnosed with psychogenic pain or a psychosomatic disorder, all other probable causes for the pain need to be ruled out. Once there is no connection between the pain and any illness or disease, a mental health professional or psychiatrist can properly diagnose you.
Treatments for Psychosomatic Disorders
In general, if you have psychosomatic pain, you’ll be treated by a pain specialist or a mental health professional. They will treat your physical pain, but they’ll also look at the underlying mental factors that may contribute to your symptoms.
Until you get the mental distress under control that’s either causing or worsening your symptoms, you won’t be free from the interference this condition can cause in your everyday life.
Common treatment techniques include:
- Antidepressant medication — Antidepressants may help treat underlying cases of anxiety or depression.
- Acupuncture – This ancient Chinese therapy can relieve stress and tension that make pain symptoms worse.
- Painkillers – Painkillers can immediately relieve pain symptoms so you can focus on improving your mental state.
- Therapy – Therapies like talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can help you work out emotional issues that could be contributing to your psychogenic pain.
Psychosomatic Symptoms That Worsen Physical Disease or Illness
In some cases, psychosomatic pain can happen as part of a vicious cycle.
In one example, a person can suffer from a diagnosed illness, like cancer, and suffer from mental anguish, stress, or anxiety because of that diagnosis. This, in turn, makes the physical symptoms of their disease worse.
This cycle is difficult to break without professional help and guidance.
Psychogenic Pain Is Often Misunderstood, but There’s Hope
Unfortunately, many cases of psychogenic pain are misunderstood. The sufferer is left with no answers and no help, as their doctors tell them flatly that there is nothing wrong with them.
What should you do if you find yourself in this situation?
The best advice is to seek out a qualified mental health professional. This person can give you a mental health evaluation and find out if any mental distress has been brewing under the surface, out of sight.
Once you can pinpoint possible reasons why you may be experiencing psychosomatic pain or distress, you can start treatment that addresses those concerns.
Getting your pain under control will take some work, but it can be done. Talk to your friends and family for help, get in to see your doctor, and make an appointment with a counselor or psychiatrist.
Relief will soon be on the horizon for you with the right treatment. Patience and a good support system will help you get through until you find it.