PAIN – IT’S NEVER ALL IN YOUR HEAD
“So essentially, you are psychoanalyzing pain perceptions, correct?”
This challenge on Facebook shocked me. I had thought we had come a lot further than that.
But, I was wrong. There are many people who are still frightened that doctors, especially psychologists and psychiatrists, believe that chronic or long-term pain is a psychological problem.
I know this very outdated view is still out there. And, I do come across it from insurance doctors trying to deny and discount peoples’ pain.
Surely, though, the enormous number of scientific studies, over the past 50 years, have put the idea of psychogenic pain to bed. The American Medical Association’s Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (way back in 1993) clearly stated that chronic pain is not a psychogenic problem.
There is a long history of weak psychoanalytic theories that try to blame physical illness on psychological problems. Migraine headaches used to be attributed to ambitious women that were hysterical or “wound too tight”. This would seem comical if it weren’t so insulting. Multiple sclerosis was thought to be a psychological problem until the MRI was invented.
So how did I respond to this Facebook challenge. First, I was not insulted. People should be suspicious of psychologists and make them show, right from the first meeting, that they understand the physical nature of chronic pain. This is a first step in establishing trust.
I wrote back saying that my work is devoted to helping people cope with chronic or long-term PHYSICAL pain, related limitations and stresses and losses in their lives. This work is not that much different than helping people cope with any chronic illness or injury. Many people need help coping with pain and loss – these are common ingredients when physical injuries and illness can not be cured.
No psychoanalysis going on here.
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