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Emotional States Play a Role in Level
by Kerin McShane, T.C., M.S.,
For thousands of people, pain is a
keen reminder of an injury or illness that can lead to
equally disabling mental suffering. Out of fear, people
whose systems are already compromised may feel their
pain greater than they need to, causing an emotional
reaction that keeps them feeling worse.
"Pain itself, and the ensuing disruption in normal
lifestyle, can lead to depression," says Dr. Michael E.
Robinson, Associate Professor of Clinical and Health
Psychology at the University of Florida's (UF) College
of Health Professions. "When people feel helpless and
hopeless their pain is more intense."
In fact, the emotional effects of chronic pain-including
depression, anger and anxiety-may do more damage to
long-term health than the actual physical degree of
discomfort, report UF researchers in recent issues of
Cranio and The Clinical Journal of Pain.
In studies of patients with chronic facial pain, UF
researchers found that the psychological effects of
being in pain were more disruptive to patients' daily
lives than the pain itself.
Pain involves both emotional and physical components.
There is a relationship between tissue damage, a
person's emotional state, and previous experiences with
painful conditions and the meaning the person gives to
the painful sensation. People who sought treatment
through the College of Dentistry's Parker E. Mahan
Facial Pain Center, reported that due to their pain,
routine tasks such as speaking on the telephone, eating,
taking medications and carrying on a conversation, had
became daily hassles.
"Communication with the world around you becomes
stressful because it hurts," Robinson said. "These
incidents may seem small in isolation, but the constant
needling can become a major life problem.”
Researchers compared the degree to which people felt
pain from similar injuries based on what the individuals
thought the pain meant. Those who did not place a major
consequence on the pain, did not feel as great an
intensity of pain as those who thought their pain
indicated a life-threatening illness. Do not make the
mistake, though, of thinking that this higher intensity
of pain is any less real, or that the feeling of
depression and anxiety you may see in your loved one, is
not real. The person truly feels the pain and fear, and
Pain is a complex disorder with many facets. The best
way to diagnose and manage pain is through a team
approach involving health care professionals of various
disciplines who can look at the patient's condition from
several different perspectives.