What is the mental pain?

April 4, 2013

When we think of pain we generally think of something that is related to our body. But there is a devastating form of pain that is not frequently acknowledged and is a topic of a paper by Eliana Tossani (University of Bologna) in the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

Mental pain is no less real than other types of pain related to parts of the body, but does not seem to get adequate attention. A major problem is the lack of agreement about its distinctive features, and operational definition.

This paper examines some suggested descriptions of mental pain, its association with and grief, its assessment and the implications that research in this field may entail.

It concludes that there is pressing need of research on mental pain. Some areas that appear to be particularly important are: – even though mental pain always has an individual meaning, consensus should be developed on its operational definition; – mental pain may provide the clinical threshold that is essential for determining the amount of distress that is worthy of clinical attention, in conjunction with .

It may offer a better specification of the criterion on 'clinically significant distress' that frequently recurs in DSM-IV; – the balance between mental pain and psychological well-being deserves attention. Engel, in his formulation of the pain-prone personality, outlined how, in some instances, somatic pain is clearly protecting the patient from more intense depression and even suicide, and the psychological profile of the need to suffer; – the of mental pain is a fascinating topic that has been addressed only by a very limited amount of research.

It may unravel the that interprets the negative emotional significance of cognitions, with particular reference to the role of and basal ganglia; – assessment of mental pain may have important implications in intervention research, particularly in psychopharmacology. For instance, depressed patients frequently report that treatment with antidepressant drugs yields substantial relief of their mental pain. Unfortunately, in psychopharmacology research the effects of drugs are measured on a limited range of symptoms.

Clinical and research attention to the issue of mental pain may produce important developments in psychiatry and is in line with recent emphasis on patient-reported outcomes, defined as any report coming directly from patients, without interpretation of physicians or others, about how they function or feel in relation to a health condition or its therapy.

Explore further: Targeting mental defeat among pain patients could prevent anxiety and depression

More information: Tossani E. The Concept of Mental Pain. Psychother Psychosom 2013;82:67–73

Related Stories

Targeting mental defeat among pain patients could prevent anxiety and depression

April 3, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A new study of Hong Kong chronic pain patients suggests that targeting feelings of mental defeat could prevent severe depression, anxiety and interference with daily activities.

Jaw pain disorder tied to anxiety, depression

January 23, 2013
(HealthDay)—There's a link between depression and anxiety symptoms and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder pain, a condition that affects the jaw, according to a new study.

Managing pain -- a family affair

April 11, 2011
Could adult children's strategies for coping with pain come from watching their parents react to and deal with pain? According to Suzyen Kraljevic, from the University Hospital Split in Croatia, and colleagues, a family may ...

Fatigue not a factor in fibromyalgia pain, study says

April 26, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Poor sleep is not a significant predictor of pain intensity and duration in patients with fibromyalgia, a new study says.

Recommended for you

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Robert_Wilson
5 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2013
In the course of treating 1000's of opiate addicts it is remarkable how many started using because of various kinds of mental pain: grief, heartbreak, and other "slings and arrows of outragious fortune". They found their pain relieved until tolerence set in. Pain is pain.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.