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Can mental illness make my pain worse?

Jun 2, 2013

Would a mental illness cause someone to think the pain they are experiencing is worse itthan they actually is? I have to bulging disc and two slipped discs and a fractured disc and I'm getting to where I can't take the pain any more. I have paranoid schizophrenia and I have it fairly under control but still have bad days and my doctor told me it was causing me to think the pain is worse than it actually is. Is this actually possible? I take meds for my mental illness that help some and have taken every med for it there is. I don't believe this pain in my back is real and can't seem to get any relief.

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Hi and thanks for writing. I'm sorry to hear about your experience with this pain. Mental illness can very definitely cause physical symptoms (for example, depressive disorders sometimes cause real fatigue and physical pain). Pain is also extremely subjective and this can make it difficult to assess and treat. Since you have a diagnosed disc problem it seems logical that you are indeed experiencing significant pain. A possible effect of the mental illness might be to obsess or focus on the pain, thereby increasing the subjective experience.

Speak with your physician about a pain management consultation. There may be more effective ways to treat your particular condition. If your thought disorder is causing you to focus more on the pain there may also be techniques to help you distract yourself from that focus.

I hope you find relief.


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