Mental Health - Other
Psychic Pain

What is Psychic Pain

Psychic Pain
Dr. Deborah Bauers's image for:
"What is Psychic Pain"
Caption: Psychic Pain
Image by: Alex E. Proimos

Psychic pain is the acute emotional and mental distress that is often felt by trauma victims. Unlike the sensation of pain that the physical body experiences when it is hurt, psychic pain is felt when the human spirit experiences a deep psychological wound.   

Human beings were not created to deal with the mental and emotional anguish that can be experienced in the wake of an unplanned traumatic event.  When forced to do so, their coping mechanisms are frequently inadequate to handle the distressful recollections and horrific details that are often witnessed during such an experience.

A traumatic event is perceived by its victim as a threat to personal safety or the safety of the world around him, as he knows it.  Numbness and shock are most often his initial responses. Within a brief amount of time, however, feelings of helplessness and fear take over as the victim’s illusions of lifelong security and predictability are shattered.

Traumatic events may include any of the following:

1. A shooting
2. A suicide
3. A hostage situation
4. An act of violence
5. Natural or manmade disasters

Although trauma is usually associated with life-threatening events, it sometimes takes the form of a personal experience that an individual feels ill-equipped to deal with.  A child, who suffers with anxiety for instance, may perceive his family’s relocation to another city as a traumatic experience. Whether or not an event is viewed as traumatic can be somewhat subjective.   

The amount of psychic pain and suffering that an individual can endure depends upon a number of factors.  His support system, mental and physical health at the time of the trauma, coping mechanisms, and personal beliefs and personal attitudes will all play a significant role in how he copes with the initial event as well as his later recollections of it.

Psychic pain can be minimized if a trauma victim can receive immediate emotional and psychological support.  Research has shown that traumatic memories can imprint themselves upon the human mind in much the same way that certain baby animals imprint their mother’s sights, sounds, and smells.  When a trauma survivor is helped to share what he has seen, smelled, and heard, and encouraged to express his emotions, psychic pain is reduced.

It is not realistic to expect that anyone who has suffered a traumatic loss will ever be emotionally or mentally pain-free.  As long as human beings retain memories, they continue to experience traces of psychic pain.  It has been suggested that, like with all memories in life that evoke some form of emotional distress, manageable amounts of psychic pain help human beings to develop stronger coping mechanisms and build character.  Most mental health professionals agree that those who are able to grow through their experiences with psychic pain become some of humanity’s most empathetic individuals.

More about this author: Dr. Deborah Bauers

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