Causes of Psychogenic Pain

There are many different causes of psychogenic pain. Learn more about the causes and treatment options for psychogenic pain in this informative article. 

Table of Contents

What is Psychogenic Pain?

Psychogenic pain, also known as functional pain or pain disorders, is a type of pain that is caused by psychological factors.1


Unlike somatic pain, it is not caused by a direct physical injury or underlying medical condition. There are potential causes of psychogenic pain. These will be detailed in the article below.

Is Psychogenic Pain “Real” Pain?

It’s important to note that psychogenic pain, despite its psychological origins, does not imply that the pain experienced by individuals is not genuine. It should also not be dismissed as being “all in the person’s head”.2


Psychogenic pain is a legitimate experience of discomfort that can be just as debilitating as pain caused by a physical condition.

Understanding Psychogenic Pain for Optimal Treatment

Psychogenic pain often requires an approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of someone who has been diagnosed with this disorder.


By understanding the causes of psychogenic pain, medical professionals can implement effective treatments to help individuals cope with and manage their pain.

The Main Causes of Psychogenic Pain

As mentioned above, psychogenic pain refers to pain caused by psychological factors. Because of this, no two cases of psychogenic pain are the same. These specific factors can vary from person to person.


There are several common causes of psychogenic pain. They may not be present in every case, but they are present in the majority of cases.


Some of the principal causes of psychogenic pain include:

Emotional Distress

Emotional factors can trigger or worsen psychogenic pain. Some components can be stress, anxiety, depression, or unresolved trauma. Intense emotions can amplify pain perception.

Somatization Disorder

Some individuals may convert emotional distress into physical symptoms. This condition is known as somatization disorder. Somatization disorder is one of many causes of psychogenic pain.


It can manifest as chronic pain without an identifiable physical cause.

Central Sensitization

This is a condition where the central nervous system becomes hypersensitive. Once hypersensitive, it overreacts to pain signals.


Central sensitization can result from a variety of factors. These include prolonged stress, trauma, or previous pain experiences.

Conversion Disorder

Conversion disorder is a psychiatric condition where individuals experience physical symptoms that have no clear medical explanation. These symptoms are believed to be related to psychological factors.

Catastrophizing and Pain Amplification

Some individuals may catastrophize their pain by focusing on it in an escalated manner. This leads to heightened pain perception and increased suffering.

Past Experiences and Conditioning

Previous traumatic experiences can influence how individuals perceive pain in the future. This is especially true of trauma involving pain.3


Conditioning and learned responses to pain can contribute to the development of psychogenic pain.

Cognitive and Behavioral Factors

Negative thought patterns can contribute to the persistence and intensity of psychogenic pain. Patterns such as catastrophizing, rumination, or fear-avoidance behaviors are some causes of psychogenic pain.

How Causes of Psychogenic Pain Differ From Other Types of Pain

There are many ways that the causes of psychogenic pain differ from other types of pain. One of the most notable is that psychogenic pain is rooted in psychological and emotional factors. This is not the same for pain rooted in direct physical causes.


Here are some key differences in the causes of psychogenic pain compared to other types of pain:

Psychological Factors

Psychogenic pain is influenced by psychological factors. As mentioned above, psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, or emotional distress can trigger or worsen the pain experienced by an individual.


In contrast, other types of pain have a clear physical cause, such as tissue damage, inflammation, or nerve injury.

Mind-Body Connection

Psychogenic pain highlights the intricate relationship between psychological and physical well-being. Emotional states, cognitive processes, and learned responses can impact pain perception.


Other types of pain may be directly related to physical injuries or medical conditions.

Absence of Physical Injury or Disease

Psychogenic pain does not stem from a specific physical injury or disease. Other types of pain can be attributed to particular anatomical issues.


Examples of physical injuries include fractures, infections, and inflammation. Psychogenic pain lacks an identifiable physical cause.

Central Sensitization

Central sensitization is a condition in which the central nervous system becomes hypersensitive and amplifies pain signals. This can result from prolonged stress, trauma, or previous pain experiences.


Other types of pain may not have this central sensitization component.

Emotional Distress Conversion

Psychogenic pain can arise from the conversion of emotional distress into physical symptoms. This conversion may occur in conditions like somatization disorder or conversion disorder. In contrast, other types of pain are linked to physical injuries or diseases.

How Psychological Factors Such as Stress and Anxiety Relate to the Development of Psychogenic Pain

Psychological factors can play a substantial role in the development of psychogenic pain. Stress and anxiety can contribute to psychogenic pain.


Here’s how these factors are related to the causes of psychogenic pain:

  • Central sensitization
  • Altered pain processing
  • Muscle tension and physical responses
  • Psychological amplification of pain
  • Emotional elements and pain modulation. 

It’s important to note that the relationship between factors and pain is complex. This means it can vary from person to person. This is similar to the way that the causes of psychogenic pain may vary.


Psychological factors can contribute to the development and maintenance of psychogenic pain. Addressing these factors can be an essential part of the treatment approach for psychogenic pain.

Past Traumas and Emotional Experiences Contribution to The Development of Psychogenic Pain

Past traumas or experiences can contribute to the development of psychogenic pain. Traumatic events can have a large impact on an individual’s physical and psychological well-being.


Addressing past traumas or experiences can be a crucial step in managing psychogenic pain. This can be done through therapy, counseling, or trauma-focused interventions.


By acknowledging the underlying psychological factors, individuals may experience improvements in pain.

Genetic or Biological factors That Contribute to Causes of Psychogenic Pain

Mental and environmental factors play a role in the development of psychogenic pain.4 However, emerging evidence suggests that these factors aren’t alone. Instead, genetic and biological factors may also contribute to the causes of psychogenic pain.


Here are some key factors that could contribute to some causes of psychogenic pain:

Genetic Predisposition

Certain genetic variations have been associated with an increased susceptibility to psychogenic pain.


For example, variations in some genes can be more prevalent in individuals with psychogenic pain. This includes variations related to pain perception, neurotransmitter function, and stress response.

Altered Pain Processing

Differences in pain processing pathways have been observed in individuals with psychogenic pain. These biological variations can influence how the brain transmits and interprets pain signals. This can make individuals more susceptible to developing psychogenic pain.

Central Sensitization

Central sensitization has been linked to genetic and biological factors. Some individuals may have heightened sensitivity to the central nervous system. This can make them more susceptible to developing psychogenic pain conditions.

Neuroendocrine Factors

Hormonal and neuroendocrine factors, such as cortisol and other stress-related hormones, can play a role in the causes of psychogenic pain.


Variations in the regulation of these hormones can impact pain processing. This may contribute to the development or maintenance of psychogenic pain.

Medical Conditions and Medications That May Cause Psychogenic Pain

Certain medical conditions or medications can contribute to the development of psychogenic pain.


It is important to differentiate between the causes of psychogenic pain and pain caused by a different condition. In some cases, an approach that addresses the physical and psychological aspects of the pain is necessary. 


Here are a few examples:

Chronic Medical Conditions

Individuals with chronic conditions may experience psychogenic pain as part of their medical condition. As a result, chronic medical conditions may cause psychogenic pain.


These conditions include those such as:


  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • Migraines.

These conditions often involve complex interactions between physiological and psychological factors. Psychogenic pain may arise as a result of the interplay between the two.


Some medications used to treat certain conditions can have side effects. For example, certain medications used to manage chronic pain can lead to the development of hyperalgesia. This is an increased sensitivity to pain or other forms of psychogenic pain.


If you have unexplained pain, speak to your provider to see if medications may be the cause of psychogenic pain.

Medication Side Effects

In some cases, psychogenic pain can emerge as a side effect of medications used to treat unrelated conditions. For instance, certain antidepressants may cause painful symptoms.

Secondary Psychological Effects

Chronic conditions that cause limitations in daily life can lead to psychological distress. This includes conditions such as depression or anxiety. This psychological distress can contribute to the development of psychogenic pain.

Mind-Body Connections Role in the Development of Psychogenic Pain

The mind-body connection plays a crucial role in the development of psychogenic pain. The mind and body are interconnected. Thus, psychological factors can influence physical sensations and pain perception.


Understanding the mind-body connection in psychogenic pain is crucial for effective treatment.


Some approaches used include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Stress management
  • Mind-body interventions.

These treatments can help address the psychological factors involved in psychogenic pain and improve overall well-being.

Here’s how the mind-body connection is involved in the causes of psychogenic pain:

Pain Modulation

Psychological factors can modulate the perception of pain. For example, stress, anxiety, and depression can lower the pain threshold. This can increase the perception of pain intensity.


Contrarily, positive emotions, relaxation techniques, and cognitive interventions can help modulate pain perception and reduce the experience of pain.

Central Sensitization

Psychological factors, particularly stress and emotional distress, can contribute to central sensitization. This is a process in which the central nervous system becomes hypersensitive and amplifies pain signals.


Central sensitization can lead to increased pain sensitivity, pain spreading to other areas, and the development of psychogenic pain.

Learned Pain Responses

Past experiences and conditioning can shape pain responses. If an individual has experienced pain in association with specific psychological or emotional triggers, the brain can learn to associate those triggers with pain.


This leads to the development of psychogenic pain. This learned response highlights the mind’s influence on the body’s pain experience.

Stress Response and Muscle Tension

Psychological stress triggers the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. This can lead to increased muscle tension and physical stress on the body.


Prolonged muscle tension and physical stress can contribute to the development of psychogenic pain. This is especially true in areas like the neck, shoulders, and back.

Emotional Factors and Pain Amplification

Negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety, or depression, can amplify an individual’s pain perception. This can increase the severity of psychogenic pain. Emotions can influence pain through cognitive and emotional processes.

Lifestyle Factors That Contribute to the Causes of Psychogenic Pain

Lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, can have a significant influence on the development of psychogenic pain. Although they may not directly cause psychogenic pain, they can play a role in determining its severity.


The following points illustrate  the role diet and exercise may have on the pain disorder:

Inflammation and Pain Sensitivity

Some foods and activities can either promote or alleviate inflammation and may impact pain sensitivity levels associated with the disorder.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can reduce the stress on joints and muscles. 

Endorphin Release

Engaging in regular physical activities that stimulate endorphin production can help manage pain and improve temperament.

Stress Reduction

 Incorporating stress-management techniques, such as mindful eating or relaxation exercises, reduces stress levels.

General Well-being and Quality of Life

A healthy lifestyle that encompasses proper nutrition and regular exercise can enhance an individual’s well-being and improve the quality of life.


The impact of lifestyle factors can vary among individuals. It’s recommended to consult with healthcare professionals who can provide personalized guidance.

Environmental and External Factors That May Trigger the Onset of Psychogenic Pain

Environmental and external factors can trigger the onset of psychogenic pain or worsen existing pain symptoms. These factors can vary from one individual to another.

Here are some common examples:

Stressful Life Events

Stressful events, such as grief and financial difficulties, can contribute to the development or worsening of pain. The emotional impact of these events can induce more physical discomfort.

Traumatic Experiences

Whether it be physical, psychological, or emotional, Trauma can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s well-being. Traumatic experiences like accidents, abuse, or witnessing a distressing event may contribute to psychogenic pain.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can also influence the occurrence of psychosomatic pain. Exposure to certain allergens, pollutants, or toxins can trigger or exacerbate pain symptoms in susceptible individuals,  Other factors like temperature, humidity, and air quality can also impact pain perception.

Social Factors

Social factors such as relationships, support systems, and social dynamics can also reduce an individual’s overall well-being. 


The quality of positive social interactions can play a role in pain management.  Social isolation, conflicts, or lack of a support system may also contribute to pain development.

Learned Responses

Learned responses refer to the behaviors and coping mechanisms that individuals develop in response to pain. These learned responses can involve associating certain situations or activities with pain and developing avoidance behaviors. 

How to Find Treatment for Psychogenic Pain

It’s important to note that psychogenic pain is a complex condition. A variety of factors, including psychological, biological, and environmental factors influence it. Identifying and addressing these triggers is crucial.


A comprehensive approach that considers both internal and external causes of psychogenic pain is often necessary to provide optimal care.

How J. Flowers Can Help Diagnose The Causes of Psychogenic Pain

If you or someone you may know is struggling with psychogenic pain, consider reaching out to the J. Flowers Health Institute for medical assistance. Psychogenic pain is real and should not be left untreated.


At J. Flowers Health Institute, you’ll gain valuable insights into the complex relationship between psychological factors and the perception of psychogenic pain.

How J.Flowers Can Help Treat Psychogenic Pain

We specialize in providing a thorough understanding of the disorder and can offer professional assistance for your recovery. Our professional and experienced staff is prepared to help you throughout your psychogenic pain journey.

Take Action and Start Your Healing Journey Today

By reaching out to the J. Flowers Health Institute, you will be able to find the help you need to treat the cause of your psychogenic pain and develop new ways to cope with and manage your pain.