How Anxiety Can Increase Pain Sensitivity

How Anxiety Can Increase Pain Sensitivity

Being worried about an upcoming flu shot, for example, can actually make the needle prick worse, studies show. Researchers who study the relationship between anxiety and pain see a link and believe the brain reads pain at a higher intensity level when someone is anxious, according to The Journal of Pain.

Ways to Alleviate Pain

Scientists are continually studying the relationship between mood, certain forms of mental illness and pain. Evidence shows that pain sensitivity is higher in individuals who suffer from depression or an anxiety disorder, notes the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Pain experienced during medical and dental procedures and some forms of chronic pain are worse when a person is fearful about feeling pain. Some researchers believe patients who are fully informed about the steps of a procedure will be less anxious and feel less pain, according to authors of a December 2001 article in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Measuring Pain While Anxious

Anxiety plays a role in all aspects of pain, according to the Neuroscience authors. Feeling worried or fearful changes a way a person rates the following:

  • Pain intensity
  • Unpleasantness
  • Pain threshold
  • Pain discrimination

On the flip side, patients who are given anti-anxiety drugs before procedures report less pain, making these drugs an option for patients who are extremely anxious.

Chronic Pain and Anxiety Disorders

In addition, a long-term relationship exists between anxiety and pain. The two co-occurring conditions—anxiety disorders and chronic pain—commonly include the following types of pain disorders according to the ADAA:

  • Arthritis-musculoskeletal system pain, especially to the joints
  • Fibromyalgia-widespread muscle pain
  • Migraine-severe pain to one or both sides of the head
  • Back pain

It may take a combination of therapies to adequately treat a person’s pain, including drug-free therapies. The ADAA notes the following remedies are effective:

  • Medication—certain medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), treat depression or anxiety and pain
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy—a form of talk therapy that helps a person learn new attitudes
  • Relaxation techniques—coping strategies for pain and anxiety
  • Complementary and alternative treatment—yoga, acupuncture, massage and other treatments

Need Help Finding Treatment for Anxiety and Pain?

There is no reason to suffer alone with anxiety and pain. Our counselors are always available to offer the best treatment options for you or a loved one. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week for guidance on effective steps toward treatment. Call us today.