Psychological Pain vs. Physical Pain

Well, what if when you didn't feel good psychologically, you did take yourself seriously, what if you didn't run away from or try to mask your feelings?
06/01/2016 10:24 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

2016-06-01-1464753381-5705159-IMG_0390.jpg

When we feel physical pain, we have no qualms about going to a doctor and getting it looked at and treated. For example, if we break an arm, there is no hesitation at all in going to see an orthopedist, getting it X-rayed and putting a cast on it, no hesitation in taking pain relievers to stop your arm from hurting. No negative self talk or blame, we don't say things like, "You are an idiot, you are so weak, you can never do anything right, you broke your arm out of sheer incompetence."

But when we feel psychological pain, we don't ask for help. We deny it. We try to do other things, like watching TV, reading a book, or even self medicating, rather than going to see a professional about it. Why is that? Why is it harder to simply take the psychological pain at face value and get help?

Well for one, you can't see psychological pain, you can't take an x-ray of it like you can of your broken arm and know that something's wrong. Also, a broken bone is a broken bone, but each person's depression can have different symptoms, or present in different ways. Psychological pain is more nebulous. Not only do other people have trouble believing that you are suffering, but you yourself doubt there's really anything wrong. One minute you feel awful, the next minute you're feeling better. And of course, there is a lot of negative self talk, you are a loser, you will never amount to anything, it's all in your head, come on just snap out of it and on and on and on. And then, because you don't want to admit to anyone else that you aren't feeling well, there is the self medication, the distracting methods like TV, pretending to be fine with happy people, etc. etc.

Well, what if when you didn't feel good psychologically, you did take yourself seriously, what if you didn't run away from or try to mask your feelings? I know this is painful, to face the pain! It's not for nothing that it is called psychological pain! But facing your pain, even though it is uncomfortable, even though you are afraid, what if you went for help to a psychologist or psychiatrist and examined those painful feelings or talked about the issues and even got some appropriate medication? What if you didn't engage in negative self talk, self abusive talk?

Yes the problem may be more nebulous, but you know when you don't feel well. Perhaps mental illness runs in your family, what if you accept you are feeling unwell, and be compassionate with yourself and get help from a professional.

Yes these issues are nebulous, and things like "inner child" work is non specific, but these things really work. Medication, even if you have to try a few, really works. All these modalities can only help you.

We must be as motivated to ensure that we feel better from psychological pain as we are to feel better from physical pain.

The brain is the most complicated organ in the body. So when you have a disease of the brain, which is what a mental illness is, it is more difficult to gain an understanding of what is going on than in our example of the broken arm. Certainly there are complicated physical illnesses such as cancer, but any neurological or mental illness in general is very (even the most) complicated and difficult to understand and treat.

Knowing this, knowing we are dealing with a complicated illness, and we as people with mental illness are also trying to understand our illness with the same organ that is suffering from the illness, namely the brain, we can approach mental health professionals, experienced people in treating mental illness and make sure we get help and treatment.

What if we can say to ourselves that we have an illness of the brain. The brain is a physical organ, so as far as I'm concerned, there is no such distinction as psychological pain vs physical pain. It is all pain due to one organ (e.g., brain, pancreas) or body part (e.g., broken arm) or other. Can we not get past that psychological vs physical dichotomy? If we could, we would then say, "Oh, I am not feeling well, I am experiencing psychological pain, I need to see a doctor who specializes in treating such illnesses of the brain." And we would get treated without stigma, without beating ourselves up, and we would get better and feel better. Amen!