Psychogenic pain

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Psychogenic pain
Classification and external resources
Specialty psychiatry
ICD-10 F45.4
ICD-9-CM 307.8
MedlinePlus 000922

Psychogenic pain, also called psychalgia,[1] is physical pain that is caused, increased, or prolonged by mental, emotional, or behavioral factors.[2][3][4]

Headache, back pain, or stomach pain are some of the most common types of psychogenic pain.[2] It may occur, rarely, in persons with a mental disorder, but more commonly it accompanies or is induced by social rejection, broken heart, grief, lovesickness, or other such emotional events.

Sufferers are often stigmatized, because both medical professionals and the general public tend to think that pain from psychological source is not "real". However, specialists consider that it is no less actual or hurtful than pain from other sources.[citation needed]

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage" (emphasis added). In the note accompanying that definition, the following can be found about pain that happens for psychological reasons:[5]

Many people report pain in the absence of tissue damage or any likely pathophysiological cause; usually this happens for psychological reasons. There is usually no way to distinguish their experience from that due to tissue damage if we take the subjective report. If they regard their experience as pain and if they report it in the same ways as pain caused by tissue damage, it should be accepted as pain.

Medicine refers also to psychogenic pain or psychalgia as a form of chronic pain under the name of persistent somatoform pain disorder[6] or functional pain syndrome.[7] Causes may be linked to stress, unexpressed emotional conflicts, psychosocial problems, or various mental disorders. Some specialists believe that psychogenic chronic pain exists as a protective distraction to keep dangerous repressed emotions such as anger or rage unconscious.[8]

It remains controversial, however, that chronic pain might arise purely from emotional causes.[9] Treatment may include psychotherapy, antidepressants, analgesics, and other remedies that are used for chronic pain in general.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Psychalgia - Physical pain that is possibly of psychological origin. American Heritage Medical Dictionary. But see also psychalgia in the sense of psychological pain.
  2. ^ a b Cleveland Clinic, Health information
  3. ^ Psychogenic pain - definition from
  4. ^ Merskey and Spear defined psychogenic pain as ”(...) pain which is independent of peripheral stimulation or of damage to the nervous system and due to emotional factors, or else pain in which any peripheral change (e.f. muscle tension) is a consequence of emotional factors.” Merskey, H., Spear F.G. (1967). Pain, psychological and psychiatric aspects. London. Bailliere, Tindall & Cassell. ISBN 0-7020-0006-X
  5. ^ IASP Pain Terminology
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Sarno, John E., MD, et al., The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders 2006 (ISBN 0-06-085178-3)
  9. ^ Stephen Tyrer, Psychosomatic pain, The British Journal of Psychiatry (2006) 188: 91-93
  10. ^ MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia