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Pain is rarely a pleasant experience. Only a masochist truly enjoys pain. Sure, they say "no pain, no gain" but that only applies to pain when working towards a goal. Pain as a symptom of an illness is far from enjoyable. I know I cannot stand pain.
Pain is a sign that something is not right. Pain is a red light; an indication that something in the body is malfunctioning. In that way, pain can actually be a good thing. More people's appendixes would burst if there wasn't a pain warning. Some brain tumors would go undiagnosed if there weren't headaches. A broken bone would go unhealed and lead to malformation if it wasn't hurting.
What about pain without a cause? Pain with no definite origin and no definite end?
How would you feel if your were constantly going to the doctor with a complaint of pain and leaving without a diagnosis or with medication that does nothing to help? How would you feel if you were constantly sore and you didn't do anything to cause your soreness? How would you feel then? Would you feel helpless? Hopeless? Disturbed? Distraught?
How would you feel if you found out you were not suffering from "bodily pain" but from a psychosomatic disorder, a somatoform disorder?
What is a Psychosomatic Illness?
The term psychosomatic illness refers to any physical symptoms that originate from the mind and from emotions. Somataform (from the root word soma, body) clasifies these disorders that appear to be purely physical and is often used interchangeably with psychosomatic.
What's the Deal with Pain Disorder?
Pain disorder is a disorder consisting of chronic, persisting pain that last several months and causes other psychological and social problems. The common sites of pain is the back, head, abdomen and chest and the pain cannot be explained by physical/medical conditions.
Pain disorder may be closely related to fibromyalgia syndrome (chronic pains in the muscles and soft tissues surrounding joints).
So is the Pain Real or Not?
The pain is very much real! The pain can be severe to the point of being debilitating. The pain, though it arises from a psychological origin, is just as real as pain from other illnesses.
- Increasing pain
- Pessimism and negativity - feeling hopeless about managing pain
- Social / relationship problems
Diagnosing Pain Disorder
Like other psychosomatic and somatoform disorders, diagnosing pain disorder is complicated. The diagnosis of pain disorder has to be made by a psychiatrist or another mental health professional. The psychiatrist has to first rule out malingering (intentionally pretending to have an illness). The psychiatrist also has to rule out factitious disorder.
There are other psychiatric disorders that must be ruled out before a diagnosis is made. These disorders include:
- Conversion Disorder
- Mood Disorders
- Anxiety Disorder
- Psychotic Disorders
Pain disorder also shares the symptoms of other, physical disorders such as:
The exact cause of Pain Disorder is unknown but there is evidence of the factors that may lead to the development of the disorder.Significant stressors and emotional distress in a stress-prone person can trigger the development of pain disorder.
A history of frequent physical pain, such as in abuse, can play an important role in the development of pain disorder.
Often, patients with pain disorder are given medications (pain killers and antidepressants, especially) to deal with the symptoms. However, pharmacological treatments alone is not a good enough treatment. Treating pain disorder with drugs can lead to dependency and addiction.
Counseling and psychotherapy is important for a person with pain disorder. Instead of masking the symptoms as medications do, therapy teaches the patient how to cope and manage their symptoms in a healthy way without risking dependency or addiction, which can also prevent drug overdose, withdrawal and other complications.
Alternative treatments for pain such as massages, heat wraps and acupuncture may also help alleviate symptoms of pain disorder.