An article in the current Scientific American Mind provides some insights into the psychology of pain – including nuggets that could be particularly relevant to the medical industry.
Some of the highlights:
- Soldiers who are wounded in battle report less pain than civilians who suffer comparable injuries. This might be because injuries in a military setting can have positive connotations (honor, surviving a battle, going home) whereas the same injuries in a civilian setting seldom have the same kinds of positive associations.
- Anticipation of a positive end result can serve as an analgesic. For example, a boxer might have a high tolerance for pain if he expects to win a fight.
- Positive expectations can affect recover from painful injuries. Car accident victims who suffered whiplash injuries and who expected to return to work recovered significantly faster than those who had lower expectations.
- If you empathize with a person and you see that person in pain, you are likely to become more sensitive to pain.
- If you suffer from depression or are under chronic stress, you are likely to experience pain more acutely than someone in a more positive frame of mind.