Anyone else experience emotional pain as physical pain?

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modernhobbit
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06 Mar 2011, 12:18 am

Here's what I mean by this: When I'm really sad, it physically hurts. The best way I can describe it as it's like my whole body stings very very badly or is on fire. It often hurts so bad that I start crying, which makes the physical pain even *worse*, which causes horrible sobbing fits and sometimes I actually cry out "It hurts! It hurts!"

Until very recently I didn't realize this wasn't a universal experience. I told my NT girlfriend about it and she said that when she's sad, she's just sad. There's no physical feeling associated with it. I can't even conceptualize what that would be like, because for me the burning feeling is an integral part of feeling sad.

I wonder whether this is related to sensory integration issues. Maybe I'm noticing subtle changes in my body that most people aren't aware of and experiencing them as painful.

Does anyone else understand what I'm talking about, or do I just sound crazy?



ocdgirl123
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06 Mar 2011, 12:27 am

I don't, but I experienced more intense emotional pain than physical pain. I probably experience physical pain less than most people, but stronger emotional pain.


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aghogday
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06 Mar 2011, 1:39 am

I felt emotional pain earlier in my life. Later in life, during an extremely stressful period, I found myself moving in the direction of depression. Not wanting to move in that direction my body competed physical pain with emotional pain. I think this is asociated with alexithymia, or psychologically blocking emotions that are too hard to deal with.

The normal emotions for me were replaced by strange sensations in the bottom of my feet that I had never experienced before. Anger that I was not in a position to express was felt as stabbing pains in my legs. I often wonder if this is what starts what is understood as fibromyalgia for some. The bottoms of the feet have oxytocin receptors, so this may be part of the issue.

My stress issues were job related, but the fear of losing my social connections from work may have been causing issues with normal oxytocin levels in my body. Just a thought, I don't have anything to back it up with. A loss of tribe, though, does seem like a primal issue, though.

Losing the ability to stay in touch with emotions in a healthy way is tough. Sometimes a journal or listening to or creating music can help, whatever it takes to get the emotions out rather than experiencing pain. If it is repressed anger a punching bag is good, if you have the hands for it. Even screaming (in an appropriate place) can help. Anger is an emotion that many repress to keep their marriage or job; not good to keep it bottled up.

It may have something to do with autism, but I was 45 before I experienced tension. Since I never experienced it, I had no idea what was causing the feeling of pain I was experiencing from it. I had to go to a Doctor to find out that it was just tension in my muscles. Yoga, meditation, massage, and exercise is good to release it.

Eighty-Five percent of people with Autism are reported to have some form of Alexithymia, so it is no wonder that many of us may experience our emotions as pain,.



marshall
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06 Mar 2011, 1:53 am

Well, I've had dysthymia and depression for the past 15 years of my life. I definitely notice certain "feelings" associated with my mood that are almost on the boundary between physical discomfort and emotional distress. When I'm particularly depressed I get a heavy/fuzzy feeling behind my eyes along with a feeling like cold ice-water is flowing through my bones.

Side effects from various psychiatric medications and/or withdrawal symptoms from such medications have lead to even more bizarre internal sensations/states that defy description. I've experienced the phenomenon of "akathesia" which is utterly impossible for me to accurately describe. Describing it to someone who hasn't experienced it is a bit like trying to describe the discomfort from holding one's breath to a being who doesn't need to breathe. It's not quite physical pain but awful none-the-less.

So anyways. While I can't say I've ever experienced what you have, I know what it's like to experience stuff that most other people can't really understand or appreciate.



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06 Mar 2011, 2:31 am

Maybe this explains why pain killers can help with emotional/psychological pain:

"Hurt feelings and social pain decreased over time in those taking acetaminophen, while no change was observed in subjects taking the placebo. Levels of positive emotions remained stable, with no significant changes observed in either group. These results indicate that acetaminophen use may decrease self-reported social pain over time, by impacting emotions linked to hurt feelings."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 154742.htm

"This study suggests that social pain is analogous in its neurocognitive function to physical pain, alerting us when we have sustained injury to our social connections, allowing restorative measures to be taken. Understanding the underlying commonalities between physical and social pain unearths new perspectives on issues such as why physical and social pain are affected similarly by both social support and neurochemical interventions, and why it “hurts” to lose someone we love."

http://www.scn.ucla.edu/pdf/Cyberball290.pdf



Yensid
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06 Mar 2011, 2:38 am

I know what you mean. It is not always true, but it is sometimes true for me.

Rejection feels like someone just hit the bottom of my stomach from the inside.

Stress, disappointment, and frustration feel like I'm getting squeezed from the inside and pushed down from above. It's like gravity just got stronger. I assumed that everybody felt this way.

Happiness feels like a caffeine high.

I think this is normal, that everybody feels like this, but I never asked anybody about it. Maybe it is unusual.


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marshall
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06 Mar 2011, 2:55 am

Yensid wrote:
I know what you mean. It is not always true, but it is sometimes true for me.

Rejection feels like someone just hit the bottom of my stomach from the inside.

Stress, disappointment, and frustration feel like I'm getting squeezed from the inside and pushed down from above. It's like gravity just got stronger. I assumed that everybody felt this way.

Happiness feels like a caffeine high.

I think this is normal, that everybody feels like this, but I never asked anybody about it. Maybe it is unusual.

Obviously there wouldn't be expressions like "a sinking feeling", "an aching/broken heart", if there weren't common sensations associated with emotions. It's possible that the degree and quality of physical sensation associated with various emotions varies from one person to another though.



Yensid
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06 Mar 2011, 3:11 am

marshall wrote:
Obviously there wouldn't be expressions like "a sinking feeling", "an aching/broken heart", if there weren't common sensations associated with emotions. It's possible that the degree and quality of physical sensation associated with various emotions varies from one person to another though.


That does bring up an interesting question. People can be hypersensitive / hyposensitive to physical pain. Why can't the same be true about emotional pain? Maybe some people are hypersensitive to emotional pain for neurological reasons.

Added by editing:

So why is this "obvious"? There are many sayings that are not literal: "Feeling blue", "feeling small", "seeing red", "gray", "ashen", "green with envy", "looking a little green", "feeling 10-feet tall", "smelling something wrong", I assume that none of these are literal. What is the difference?


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Last edited by Yensid on 06 Mar 2011, 6:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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06 Mar 2011, 3:12 am

It is afterall where the saying "broken heart" comes from.



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06 Mar 2011, 3:45 am

I've had physical pain worsen when I'm angry.



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06 Mar 2011, 4:47 am

Kon wrote:
Maybe this explains why pain killers can help with emotional/psychological pain:

"Hurt feelings and social pain decreased over time in those taking acetaminophen, while no change was observed in subjects taking the placebo. Levels of positive emotions remained stable, with no significant changes observed in either group. These results indicate that acetaminophen use may decrease self-reported social pain over time, by impacting emotions linked to hurt feelings."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 154742.htm

"This study suggests that social pain is analogous in its neurocognitive function to physical pain, alerting us when we have sustained injury to our social connections, allowing restorative measures to be taken. Understanding the underlying commonalities between physical and social pain unearths new perspectives on issues such as why physical and social pain are affected similarly by both social support and neurochemical interventions, and why it “hurts” to lose someone we love."

http://www.scn.ucla.edu/pdf/Cyberball290.pdf

*goes out and buys extra strong pain killers*



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06 Mar 2011, 7:02 am

Yensid wrote:
marshall wrote:
Obviously there wouldn't be expressions like "a sinking feeling", "an aching/broken heart", if there weren't common sensations associated with emotions. It's possible that the degree and quality of physical sensation associated with various emotions varies from one person to another though.


That does bring up an interesting question. People can be hypersensitive / hyposensitive to physical pain. Why can't the same be true about emotional pain? Maybe some people are hypersensitive to emotional pain for neurological reasons.

Added by editing:

So why is this "obvious"? There are many sayings that are not literal: "Feeling blue", "feeling small", "seeing red", "gray", "ashen", "green with envy", "looking a little green", "feeling 10-feet tall", "smelling something wrong", I assume that none of these are literal. What is the difference?

I have literally seen red when I got angry once as a child before I learned to control my temper, there was a red haze tinting my vision. I have seen the greenish tint to a persons skin when they were really ill and I've also seen someone look grey with grief. Some of these don't make any sense to me either but then I think it's possible that I just haven't seen or felt them.


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Malin
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06 Mar 2011, 7:04 am

I don't think the original post was asking about emotional pain causing physical pain, but rather about emotional pain manifesting primarily as physical pain.

In which case yes: I know exactly what you mean. I often feel like I've been punched in the stomach, and often tense it up as if attempting to ward off emotional pain when I'm stressed. I thought it was fairly normal until I noticed that I often don't process anything wrong in the world except the stomach pain - the emotional bit is half inferred.



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06 Mar 2011, 7:06 am

Kon wrote:
Maybe this explains why pain killers can help with emotional/psychological pain:

"Hurt feelings and social pain decreased over time in those taking acetaminophen, while no change was observed in subjects taking the placebo. Levels of positive emotions remained stable, with no significant changes observed in either group. These results indicate that acetaminophen use may decrease self-reported social pain over time, by impacting emotions linked to hurt feelings."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 154742.htm

"This study suggests that social pain is analogous in its neurocognitive function to physical pain, alerting us when we have sustained injury to our social connections, allowing restorative measures to be taken. Understanding the underlying commonalities between physical and social pain unearths new perspectives on issues such as why physical and social pain are affected similarly by both social support and neurochemical interventions, and why it “hurts” to lose someone we love."

http://www.scn.ucla.edu/pdf/Cyberball290.pdf

That's interesting, although, when I get stress or anger headaches (thankfully now not a regular happening) headache tablets sometimes made the pain worse instead of getting rid of them. The pain killers were a lot more effective after I had dealt with the mental cause. I may be atypical though.


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Yensid
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06 Mar 2011, 7:15 am

LostAlien wrote:
I have literally seen red when I got angry once as a child before I learned to control my temper, there was a red haze tinting my vision. I have seen the greenish tint to a persons skin when they were really ill and I've also seen someone look grey with grief. Some of these don't make any sense to me either but then I think it's possible that I just haven't seen or felt them.


Interesting. So maybe some of these are not just figures of speech after all. I had not realized that.

Here is another one. Strong criticism leaves a taste in my mouth. This is not an expression. There is a literal taste. Strong criticism tastes like hitting your head. Does this make any sense to anybody else?


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