Pain disorder is a condition in which the patient experiences chronic pain in one or more parts of the body due to psychological stress. It is a psychosomatic disorder in which one’s psychological impairments have physical repercussions. The pain is usually very severe and it hinders the patient from functioning normally. It can begin at any age and can last for any length of time, even after the event that caused the anxiety would have been long gone and forgotten.
By definition, pain disorder is an unpleasant sensory or emotional suffering arising out of real or perceived tissue damage after the person undergoes a traumatic event (mostly an accident or a life threatening situation). The pain is mostly real, but a part of it may also be a psychological response to stimuli in the body. This disorder is a result of multiple factors coming into play - the central nervous system, emotions, beliefs, cognition, and physical conditions. Some other forms of it are: Somatization Disorder, Conversion Disorder and Hypochondiasis.
Signs and Symptoms
- Always feeling helpless against pain
- Increased pain often requiring intervention
- Disruption in relationships
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact causes of pain disorder depend on the area in which pain is being experienced. Common areas where it affects the individual include chest, back and limbs.
Pathological causes: It may result out of underlying pathological problems. Conditions like fibromyalgia (damage to the fibromuscular tissues) and skeletal damage are widely held responsible for it. Some other less common pathological causes leading up to this situation include migraine, and peptic ulcer.
Environmental and psychological factors: It is a result of anxiety and stress. Individuals have a limit to how much stress they can bear. Some people have a high bearing capacity whereas some other people “break-down” more easily. This “break-down” is primarily a result of chemical imbalance (usually in the hypothalamus, affecting serotonin levels) in the brain that is caused as a response to life threatening stimuli.
Individuals suffering from chronic pain disorder are exposed to a number of risks including:
- Depression: Chronic and ongoing suffering can lead to depression. The patients tend to become negative in their outlook towards their condition which can aggravate their depression.
- Withdrawing from social situations: This situation can often interfere in a person’s day to day functioning which can result in withdrawing from social settings. Being absent from get-togethers, being unable to stay at parties to catch up with friends, and being generally tired and fatigued can render a person without a social circle.
- Substance abuse: narcotics are used as common pain relievers and long term use of narcotics can be addictive. This can lead to substance abuse and related complications
- Thoughts of suicide
Depending on the severity, location, and type of pain, the treatment at a rehabilitation facility is suggested. Medication and psychotherapy can either be administered independently or in combination to the individual.
Antidepressants are used in to reduce the suffering and related side effects. Codeine and oxycodone are the two most widely used painkillers on patients. NSAIDs are also commonly employed to relieve pain.
Psychotherapy is beneficial for those patients who have been experiencing chronic pain. Chronic pain is a result of psychological response to external stimuli and therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy have proven to be particularly successful in reducing anxiety and stress in patients with chronic pain disorder.