A psychogenic pain is a physical pain that is caused, increased or prolonged by mental, emotional or behavioural factors, with headaches, muscle, back and stomach pains being some of the more common types.
You might think that the term pretty much encompasses any kind of pain that you can think of. However, as a therapist you will rarely, if ever, have someone referred to you because they’re suffering from psychogenic pain.
Technically, it’s a form of chronic pain that is itself a variant of a somatoform disorder (a mental disorder characterised by physical symptoms suggesting physical illness or injury but that cannot be explained by a medical condition or mental disorder or by the effect of a substance).
In pain circles then, psychogenic is a dirty word and one not to be bandied lightly. Using it courts controversy.
However, by the time a pain sufferer is referred to a therapist, either by themselves directly, or though a doctor, physician or pain clinic, it is usually because they have been dealing with it for quite some time, conventional medical treatment has failed, the professionals are stumped and the client is at their wit’s end.
As the medical doctor and hypnotherapist Dabney Ewin says, “Constant pain is nearly always psychological in my experience, almost any physical pain can be temporarily relived by medication, rest, sleep or positioning.”
Pain control, thankfully, is one of hypnotherapy’s success stories.
It is an excellent tool for the treatment of many acute pain conditions. However, with chronic pain conditions, things get a little more complicated and a multi-modal approach, such as the one offered by cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy, becomes a more elegant tool.
As a therapist or hypnotherapist, you don’t need to use the term ‘psychogenic’ with anyone (least of all the patient), but you do need to keep it very much in mind.
What cognitive factors and unhealthy beliefs are influencing that person’s perception of pain and how? Does the client present with emotional problems in other areas of their lives that are having an impact upon the pain and how they perceive it? Does the client exhibit maladaptive coping mechanisms to guard the pain that need to be addressed and, what on earth do you focus on first?
As the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) says, “pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”
If you are already working in pain control, wish to see clients who present with pain problems or are simply interested in the subject then the CCBH masterclass in psychogenic pain control is for you.
On it, you will learn how to effectively formulate a treatment plan on a case-by-case basis, confidently assess pain levels, accurately work out how their emotions affect their pain and vice versa, break down typical unhealthy beliefs that increase the perception of pain, and better understand the various hypnotherapy techniques that can manipulate the symptoms of pain.
The treatment of pain can be a complicated business. The effective use of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy allows you to tailor a pain control program to the individual rather than take a prescribed approach to the treatment of the symptom.
As with any other client walking in through your door, you are treating a person, not a symptom and you need to find out as much about them as you can.
Find out how to treat the person, and you find out how to treat the pain.