Fear of pain?

Did you know that the FEAR OF PAIN can be worse than the pain itself?

Oscar Anacleto

8/29/20232 min read

The Fear of Pain

The intense fear of pain is often observed in individuals dealing with chronic pain syndromes or pain that lasts for more than 3 months without apparent cause, who fear the return or intensification of the pain. While it's natural to want to avoid pain, some people experience a disproportionate aversion, accompanied by feelings of intense worry, panic, and even depression when anticipating the painful sensation. This heightened fear can make them more sensitive to pain. However, it's important to emphasize that often this fear can be successfully managed through a combination of psychotherapy, exercises, and exposure therapy.

The origin of this FEAR lies in the complex relationship between fear, anxiety, and protection. Our fear and anxiety responses are natural mechanisms of self-preservation in the face of imminent dangers. However, individuals facing chronic pain can develop a persistent fear and anxiety response as a form of protection. This leads them to avoid activities or situations they believe could trigger more pain or worsen their condition. Sadly, this exaggeration in risk perception can ironically amplify the experience of pain.

In fact, chemicals in the brain that regulate our fear and anxiety responses also influence how we perceive pain. Thus, chemical imbalances can intensify the sensation of pain.

Although such fear can affect anyone, it's more common in individuals suffering from chronic pain syndromes. Some examples of chronic pain include cancer-related pain, migraines, inflammatory pains linked to infections or autoimmune diseases, musculoskeletal discomforts like back pain or arthritis, neuropathic pain associated with nerve damage or nervous system disorders, nociceptive pain stemming from tissue injuries such as sprains, burns, or bruises, and even psychogenic pain related to psychological factors and also OROFACIAL PAIN.

Symptoms of individuals with FEAR OF PAIN often follow a characteristic cycle of pain and anxiety:

  1. Catastrophizing: This occurs when someone envisions the worst possible scenario in any situation.

  2. Hypervigilance: The fear is centered on the anticipation of pain, not the pain itself. The person becomes overly attentive to any sensation that may be related to pain, often associating harmless experiences with potential causes of pain.

  3. Avoiding the Fear: As a result, the person tends to avoid activities and movements they believe could trigger pain. Some may even develop kinesiophobia, the fear of movement due to pain, which hampers rehabilitation ability. This avoidance can lead to more limitations, increased pain, and health complications, besides negatively impacting performance in academic, professional, and social spheres.

And you? Do you have PAIN and FEAR OF PAIN? And is it affecting your quality of life?