You cut your finger, break a bone, or burn yourself and pain ensues, which is your nervous system’s way of signaling the damage. What about the mysterious body aches and pains that often accompany anxiety, stress, depression, and other mental health issues? Just because there’s no visible signs of physical damage does it mean that the pain is “in your head?” Technically, yes, but that doesn’t make it any less serious.
Dr. Diana Ghelber and our team here at the Institute for Advanced Psychiatry are well familiar with this phenomenon, called psychogenic pain, that stems from the relationship between your mental health and your nervous system.
Here’s a look at what we know about psychogenic pain and how we can go about treating the problem.
To get right to the heart of one of the bigger questions surrounding psychogenic pain, our belief is that the pain that accompanies a mental health disorder is quite real.
Under routine circumstances, the pathology of pain is quite direct — you incur an injury that creates damage to your body. The nerves in the damaged area send signals to your central nervous system — namely your brain — of the problem and your brain interprets the signals as pain.
With psychogenic pain, there may be no visible damage to your body, but it doesn’t mean that your pain is any less real. Since pain and mental health disorders are both issues that originate in your brain, these two areas can interact in ways that lead to overactive pain signaling, despite the absence of physical damage.
A good example of the power of the brain when it comes to pain is the pain felt by amputees in the limb that was removed, which is called phantom limb pain. Even though the limb is no longer there, your nervous system continues to function as if it were and reports pain.
Psychogenic pain can present itself in many ways, but the most common complaints are:
We want to underscore the fact that this list is by no means comprehensive and you may experience psychogenic pain elsewhere.
Psychogenic pain can be tricky to treat since we can’t address clearly identifiable damage. This means that medications that address pain or inflammation can be largely ineffective, not to mention there’s considerable risk in taking opioid-based painkillers.
Instead of this approach, we prefer to to address the problem where it starts — in your brain. This means that we want to target your underlying mental health issue, which typically resolves your psychogenic pain.
To do this, we offer the most innovative treatments available, including transcranial magnetic stimulation and ketamine infusion therapy. Of course, we offer these therapies alongside psychotherapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, which allows you to gain better control over your thoughts and moods.
The bottom line is that psychogenic pain is real and we want to help you get on the road to relief, both from the pain and the underlying mental or emotional problem behind the pain. To get started, contact one of our two locations in Granbury or Fort Worth, Texas.