What is it?
Emotional or psychological pain is a natural part of life.
It has been described as the “heartache” that results from a painful experience.
This may include the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, social exclusion or job loss.
It is also referred to as mental pain, psychic pain, social pain, spiritual or soul pain, or suffering – and is sometimes called psychalgia.
Emotional pain is mental suffering or torment.
It can stem from depression, anxiety, disappointment, fear or guilt.
Research has shown that emotional pain can hurt more than physical pain.
While both types of pain can hurt very much, social pain has the unique ability to come back over and over again.
This is because pain caused by emotional distress is more deeply felt and longer lasting than that caused by physical injuries.
And unlike physical pain, it can worsen when you replay and relive painful, traumatic past events.
Emotional pain can be crippling when it affects your mood, relationships, personal and professional life, and it occupies your mind constantly.
What causes it?
Emotional pain is the result of personal trauma.
Sometimes emotional pain is caused by a related condition, such as depression or an anxiety disorder.
Some people experience emotional trauma during their childhood. This can be due to a variety of factors such as abuse (mental and physical), bullying, neglect, abandonment or the loss of parent or loved one.
Others experience emotional pain during adulthood. This may occur due to the end of a relationship, divorce, loss of a parent or loved one, being a victim of crime, physical or mental abuse, substance abuse, retrenchment or job loss.
Often, where severe trauma is experienced, the person may be continuously haunted by recurring nightmares and mental images, as in the case of a war veteran or a rape victim.
Many emotional pain sufferers are unable to stop dwelling on the past – and struggle to let go of the painful memories. They are often caught in a cycle of guilt and punishment – reliving a traumatic event over and over again in their minds.
This can result in depression or feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.
Some hide their pain or avoid facing their emotional trauma by resorting to self-destructive behavior such as alcohol or drug abuse, aggression, repression or denial.
These actions are usually a cry for help.
There are times when emotional pain is overwhelming, and all you can think of is how you can stop hurting.
Talk to your doctor if you don't feel you can manage your emotions effectively on your own.
They can advise you about the right kind of medication for you. This is much safer and more effective than self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
Opiate-based drugs, including anti-depressant medications, are sometimes prescribed to people for the management of emotional pain.
Anti-depressant medications are not usually addictive, although anti-anxiety medications can be, and all should only be taken as and when prescribed.
Studies have shown that Paracetamol – a common painkiller – can also be used effectively to help treat emotional pain and anxiety.
It can help to alleviate the symptoms of emotional pain.
One study found that taking paracetamol can inhibit the brain signal that says “something is wrong.”
But medication is not always the answer.
Drugs that numb emotional pain as well as physical pain tend to be addictive.
By trying to escape emotional pain through the use of drugs, you may be setting yourself up for needing more of the drug once the effect has worn off.
To avoid developing or worsening an addiction it is best to deal directly the emotions that burden you.
There are many ways to manage emotional pain – and let go of past traumas – without medication.
Acknowledging emotional trauma is the first step to the healing process.
Natural treatments include:
- Counseling and psychotherapy
- Herbal and homeopathic remedies
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Spiritual therapy
These treatments can be effective in relieving the symptoms of emotional pain, lifting mood and reducing anxiety.
It is important to talk to someone about your problem.
Your therapist will help you to uncover and deal with emotional pain.
Learning how to deal with your true feelings, no matter how unpleasant they seem, will provide relief.