What Does a Diagnosis of Psychogenic Pain Mean?

Navigating psychological or mental pain can be difficult. Read on to learn more about the diagnosis of psychogenic pain and how you can get help.

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What Is Psychogenic Pain?

Pain can come in forms and from many sources. Often, pain stems from a recent wound or injury. For some, though, the cause of pain may be due to psychological or mental sources, in which case looking into a diagnosis of psychogenic pain may be more beneficial.


Pain can come from non-physical sources, and this type of pain is referred to as psychogenic pain.1

How Can Psychogenic Pain Occur?

Psychogenic pain refers to pain influenced or caused by psychological factors. These factors can include emotions, thoughts, or past traumatic experiences.


This type of pain is a complex condition. With psychogenic pain, the pain often occurs without an identifiable physical cause. This can be challenging to diagnose and navigate, especially since everyone experiences pain differently.


Psychogenic pain can manifest in various ways and affect different parts of the body. It is often chronic or recurrent. The intensity and duration of the pain can vary among individuals.

What Causes Psychogenic Pain?

There is no single, clear cause of psychogenic pain. Instead, many different causes can contribute to the onset and intensity of this pain. This includes emotional distress, anxiety, depression, or chronic stress.


Researchers have not yet uncovered the precise mechanisms underlying psychogenic pain. Scientists believe that psychogenic pain involves altered processing in the central nervous system. This means there is an interplay between physical and psychological factors.


Because of its lack of clear causes or sources, diagnosis can be challenging. A comprehensive medical evaluation can help in the diagnosis of psychogenic pain, though.

Is Psychogenic Pain Real?

Despite having an origin in the mind, though, this pain is real and valid. It is important to remember pain comes in many forms.2

What Is Involved In the Diagnosis of Psychogenic Pain?

The process of diagnosing psychogenic pain often involves a comprehensive evaluation. There is no single test or tool to provide a diagnosis of psychogenic pain. Instead, the diagnosis of psychogenic pain occurs from a combination of factors.


Here are the key components involved in the diagnosis of psychogenic pain process:3

Medical History

The healthcare professional will take a detailed medical history. This includes information about the onset, duration, and characteristics of the pain.

They will inquire about any prior injuries, medical conditions, or relevant treatments. Understanding the individual’s physical health helps rule out other potential causes of pain.

Physical Examination

A physical examination will assess any physical signs or abnormalities. These factors may contribute to the pain. The examination may include assessing:

  • Range of motion
  • Muscle strength
  • Reflexes
  • Palpation of painful areas

The absence of physical findings can support the diagnosis of psychogenic pain.

Psychological Assessment

A variety of factors may contribute to or exacerbate the pain. A psychological assessment may be conducted to check emotional and psychological factors.

This assessment may involve:

Collaborative Approach

The diagnostic process often involves a collaborative approach. This is where healthcare professionals from different disciplines may be involved.


Their expertise contributes to a better understanding of the individual’s pain experience.

How Does the Diagnosis of Psychogenic Pain Differ From Diagnosing Other Types of Pain?

The diagnosis of psychogenic pain differs from diagnosing other types of pain in varying ways. This is because it involves considering psychological factors in the pain experience. 


Here are some key differences in the diagnostic process for psychogenic pain:4

  • Emphasis on psychological assessment
  • Exclusion of physiological causes
  • Multidisciplinary collaboration
  • Subjective nature of symptoms
  • Treatment response as diagnostic confirmation

It’s important to note that diagnosing pain is complex and requires careful evaluation. Healthcare professionals will use their expertise to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Then, they can develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to the individual.

Are There Any Specific Tests or Procedures That Can Be Used to Diagnose Psychogenic Pain?

There are no specific tests or procedures that can 100% aid in the diagnosis of psychogenic pain. Diagnosing psychogenic pain relies on a comprehensive evaluation.


This considers the individual’s medical history, physical examination findings, and psychological factors. Certain tests or procedures may be used to help rule out other potential causes of pain and support the diagnosis of psychogenic pain.


These may include:

Imaging Studies

Imaging techniques include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT) scans. These can assess the structural integrity of the affected body part and rule out physical abnormalities or injuries.


These tests help identify any visible anatomical causes of the pain. While this won’t provide a diagnosis of psychogenic pain, it can help rule out other causes.

Blood Tests

Blood tests check for specific markers of:

  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Other medical conditions that can cause pain

These tests help to rule out underlying physiological causes of pain.

Electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Studies

EMG and nerve conduction studies are tests used to test the functioning of nerves and muscles. These tests assess nerve function to rule out neuropathic pain conditions.

Psychological Assessments

Psychological assessments can include questionnaires or structured interviews. These can be used to assess:

  • Emotional distress
  • Psychiatric conditions
  • History of trauma
  • Other psychological factors that may
  • contribute to or exacerbate the pain

These assessments help in identifying the presence of psychological factors that influence pain.

Diagnostic Nerve Blocks or Injections

In some cases, diagnostic nerve blocks or injections may help determine the source or cause of pain. These injections involve the temporary numbing of nerves or specific points to observe if the pain is relieved.


The response to these injections can provide insights into the nature of the pain.

How to Differentiate Between Physical Pain and Psychogenic Pain?

Differentiating between physical and psychogenic pain can be challenging. This is because pain is a subjective experience with potentially complex underlying causes.


Here are some considerations that can help in distinguishing between the two:

  • Medical evaluation
  • Absence of clear physiological abnormalities
  • Psychological factors
  • Pain characteristics
  • Response to treatment
  • Multidisciplinary assessment

It’s important to note that pain can have both physical and psychogenic components. It is not always a clear-cut distinction.

How Important Is the Patient's Personal History and Emotional State in the Diagnosis of Psychogenic Pain?

The patient’s personal history and emotional state play a crucial role in the diagnosis of psychogenic pain. Understanding the individual’s personal history is important. This information aids in evaluating the psychological factors contributing to the pain experience.


Here’s why the patient’s personal history and emotional state are important:

Identifying Potential Risk Factors

A patient’s personal history can provide valuable insights. This includes information into potential risk factors for the pain.


Past traumatic events may have a large impact on the development of psychogenic pain. Understanding these risks can help identify the psychological factors contributing to pain.

Assessing Emotional Distress

Emotional distress includes anxiety, depression, chronic stress, or unresolved emotional issues. These can influence the perception and experience of pain.


Evaluating the patient’s emotional state allows professionals to assess these factors. It also allows professionals to determine their potential impact on pain.

Understanding Pain-Related Beliefs and Behaviors

The patient’s personal history and emotional state can provide insights into pain-related behaviors. Negative beliefs about pain can contribute to the persistence of psychogenic pain.


Assessing these factors helps in tailoring the treatment approach to address specific aspects.

Can a Diagnosis of Psychogenic Pain Be Made in Conjunction With a Diagnosis of a Physical Condition or Illness?

A diagnosis of psychogenic pain can be made in conjunction with a physical condition. In such cases, the healthcare professional will consider both factors contributing to the individual’s pain. The physical condition or illness may account for some of the pain.


The management of pain in individuals with a dual diagnosis may involve a holistic approach. This includes collaboration between professionals from different specialties.

Treatment Strategies

Treatment strategies may include:

  • Medications to manage the physical condition
  • Physical therapy to improve physical function
  • Psychological interventions, such as therapy or counseling, to address emotional factors
  • Pain management techniques to enhance well-being

What Can Cause Physical and Psychogenic Pain to Overlap?

There are multiple ways that these two types of pain can co-occur. For example, if someone struggles with chronic headaches, this may be caused by an underlying physical condition, such as an illness or other disorder.


While this is not always the case, it’s important to get dual diagnosis help if necessary.

What Are Some Potential Challenges or Limitations in the Diagnosis of Psychogenic Pain?

The diagnosis of psychogenic pain can present several challenges and limitations. This is due to the subjective nature of pain and the complex interplay of physical and psychological factors.


Here are some potential challenges and limitations in the diagnosis of psychogenic pain:

Subjectivity of Pain

Pain is a subjective experience, making it difficult to measure or quantify.


The absence of clear physiological markers can make it challenging to tell psychogenic pain from other types.

Overlapping Symptoms

Symptoms of psychogenic pain can overlap with those of other medical conditions. This can make it challenging to distinguish between physical and psychogenic causes.


This needs a thorough evaluation and careful consideration of the individual’s:

  • Medical history
  • Physical examination findings
  • Psychological factors

Complex Etiology

Psychogenic pain can have many contributing factors, including psychological, social, and environmental influences.


Identifying the specific psychological factors and their contribution to pain can be complex. It may need collaboration between healthcare professionals from different disciplines.

Stigma and Skepticism

There may be a stigma associated with psychogenic pain. This leads to skepticism or misunderstanding from both healthcare professionals and society. This can result in delayed or inaccurate diagnosis and hinder access to appropriate care.

Limited Awareness and Knowledge

Psychogenic pain is still not as recognized or understood compared to other types of pain. This can lead to underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis, as well as a lack of appropriate treatment options.

Patient-Provider Communication

Communication between the professional and patient aids in the diagnosis of psychogenic pain. But, it can be challenging to convey subjective experiences, emotions, and psychological factors.


There are several ways that doctors or other healthcare professionals can work to overcome these various challenges. These include:

  • Building trust
  • Creating a supportive environment
  • Using appropriate communication techniques

Coexistence with Physical Conditions

As stated above, psychogenic pain can coexist with physical conditions or illnesses, further complicating the diagnosis.


Distinguishing between the contributions of physical and psychological factors needs a comprehensive evaluation. It also will need a multidisciplinary approach.

Diagnosis of Psychogenic pain

Learn More About the Diagnosis of Psychogenic Pain With J. Flowers Health Institute

Discover the answers you seek about psychogenic pain diagnosis at J. Flowers Health Institute.


Are you experiencing unexplained pain that seems to have no physical cause? We specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of psychogenic pain. We strive to provide you with the understanding and support you need.

How Can We Help?

Pain that originates from psychological factors rather than a specific physical injury can be complex. We are dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of your pain and guiding you towards effective treatment options.

Get In Touch With Us Today

Don’t let psychogenic pain hold you back any longer. Call J. Flowers Health Institute today to take the first step towards a diagnosis of psychogenic pain. Relief and a brighter future await you.