What is Psychogenic Pain?

What is psychogenic pain? What are the causes, symptoms, and treatment opportunities available? Find out here.

Table of Contents


For many, the journey to understanding pain begins with a question. One of the most commonly asked questions is “what is psychogenic pain?” This can be a great way to approach this complex topic.


So, what is psychogenic pain? We will delve into the fundamentals of psychogenic pain in this comprehensive article.

What is Psychogenic Pain?

Psychogenic pain is also known as psychosomatic pain.1

It refers to physical pain that is caused or influenced by psychological factors. 


These factors include:2

Physical Pain vs. Psychogenic Pain

Most physical pain arises from direct tissue damage or a specific medical condition. 


Psychogenic pain originates from the mind. It can occur even in the absence of identifiable physical injury or pathology.

What are the Symptoms of Psychogenic Pain?

Psychogenic pain can manifest in various forms. This includes:

  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Generalized body pain

The pain experienced is real, and it can be debilitating. But, its underlying cause is rooted in psychological or emotional distress.

How is it Different from Other Types of Pain?

When you’re learning about “what is psychogenic pain,” it can be difficult to know how it is different. That’s why it’s important to learn distinguishing factors when learning what is psychogenic pain. 


As mentioned above, psychogenic pain does not originate from any physical areas. There is no physical injury or distress that causes the pain. This does not mean that psychogenic pain is imaginary, though. 

Key Differentiators

Psychogenic pain differs from other types of pain in several key aspects:

  • Origin
  • Absence of physical damage
  • Subjectivity
  • Amplification of pain perception
  • Treatment approach

The Distinction Isn’t Clear-Cut

The distinction between psychogenic pain and other pain is not always clear-cut. Pain can have both physical and psychological components. The two can interact and influence each other.


It is important to consider a holistic approach. This is one that takes into account both aspects of pain. A multifaceted approach is needed for effective management and treatment.

Causes of Psychogenic Pain

When you know the answer to “what is psychogenic pain,” you may also wonder why it happens. Mainly, why does this condition develop? This is a key part of understanding “what is psychogenic pain?”


Psychogenic pain can have various causes. It often results from a complex interplay between psychological, emotional, and physiological factors. The causes vary from person to person.3

Coexistence With Other Conditions

Psychogenic pain can also coexist with other types of pain or medical conditions. This makes it important to consider an assessment to determine the underlying factors. 


Here are some common causes and contributing factors associated with psychogenic pain:

Emotional Distress

Questions of “what is psychogenic pain” often lead individuals to think about their minds. This includes how their mind affects their bodies.


Strong emotions can trigger or exacerbate psychogenic pain. These include: 

Emotional distress can lead to changes in the way pain signals are processed by the brain. This amplifies pain perception.

Psychological Factors

When people research “what is psychogenic pain” and its causes, they’ll come across various psychological factors.


Certain psychological factors can contribute to the development or maintenance of psychogenic pain. 


This includes:

  • Somatization
  • Hypervigilance
  • Catastrophizing (exaggerating the significance of pain)
  • A tendency to focus excessively on physical sensations

Previous Trauma or Abuse

People who have experienced trauma may be more prone to developing psychogenic pain. This includes physical, emotional, or sexual trauma.


Trauma can have long-lasting effects on the nervous system. This can influence the perception and experience of pain.

Stress and Tension

High levels of chronic stress can affect the body’s physiological responses. This leads to increased muscle tension, inflammation, and pain. 


Certain conditions often have stress-related components. Some of the most common conditions that fall into this category include:

  • Tension headaches
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
  • Fibromyalgia

Psychosocial Factors

When people ask “what is psychogenic pain,” they don’t always consider external factors. These are factors outside of the person, such as their environment.


Social and environmental factors can contribute to psychogenic pain. 


These factors include:

  • Poor social support
  • Occupational stress
  • Financial difficulties
  • Significant life changes

These can impact an individual’s mental well-being and contribute to the development or exacerbation of pain.

Central Sensitization

Repeated exposure to pain or ongoing stress can lead to central sensitization. This is a condition where the central nervous system becomes hypersensitive to pain signals. 


This can result in an amplification of pain perception and the development of chronic pain conditions.

What is Psychogenic Pain’s Relationship to Psychological Factors?

As mentioned above, psychogenic pain stems from a variety of psychological factors. When asking “what is psychogenic pain,” it is important to consider these factors. 


Mental health conditions can contribute to the development of psychogenic pain in various ways.4


Below are some ways in which these conditions can influence pain perception and contribute to psychogenic pain.

Altered Pain Processing

Depression and anxiety can affect the way pain signals are processed in the brain. 


These conditions can lower the pain threshold. This makes individuals more sensitive to pain stimuli and perceive pain more intensely.


The brain’s response to pain signals may also be heightened, amplifying the experience of pain.

Heightened Emotional Response

Depression and anxiety are associated with heightened emotional states. This includes sadness, fear, or worry. 


These emotional states can intensify the experience of pain and contribute to its impact on an individual’s well-being.

Shared Neurotransmitters

Depression, anxiety, and pain share common neurotransmitters and chemical pathways in the brain.  

Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine play a role in daily life. 


This includes regulating:

  • Mood
  • Anxiety levels
  • Pain perception

Neurotransmitter Imbalances

Imbalances in these neurotransmitters can contribute to both mental health conditions and altered pain perception.

Catastrophizing and Hypervigilance

People with depression or anxiety may engage in cognitive distortions such as catastrophizing. 


This is where they exaggerate the significance of pain or expect the worst possible outcome.



Hypervigilance is a state of heightened awareness and attention to pain sensations. These cognitive factors can increase pain perception and distress related to pain.

Behavioral Changes

Depression and anxiety can lead to changes in behavior. This includes reduced physical activity, poor sleep, or altered eating patterns.


These changes can contribute to:

  • Muscle tension
  • Deconditioning
  • Physical health issues

These conditions then can exacerbate pain symptoms.

Co-Occurring Stress

Many people who ask “what is psychogenic pain” may be familiar with co-occurring stress. 


Depression and anxiety are often accompanied by high levels of chronic stress. Stress can:

  • Increase muscle tension
  • Promote inflammation
  • Disrupt the body’s pain-regulating mechanisms

This worsens pain symptoms or triggers the onset of psychogenic pain.

Important Note about Mental Health and Psychogenic Pain

It is important to note that the relationship between mental health conditions and psychogenic pain is complex. 


Mental health conditions can contribute to the development or worsening of psychogenic pain. Chronic pain itself, however, can also have impacts on mental health.


This can lead to a vicious cycle of pain and emotional distress. Addressing both the psychological and physical aspects is crucial for effective management and treatment of psychogenic pain.

Can Physical Conditions Lead to Psychogenic Pain?

Physical conditions can influence the development of psychogenic pain. They can cause:

  • Central sensitization
  • Psychological distress
  • Fear-avoidance
  • Changes in brain structure and function
  • Poor daily functioning

It’s important to note that the relationship between physical conditions and psychogenic pain is complex. It can also vary from person to person.

Symptoms of Psychogenic Pain

Psychogenic pain manifests in various ways. The specific symptoms experienced can vary from person to person. There are some common symptoms associated with psychogenic pain. 


These include:

  • Varying or shifting pain
  • Chronic or persistent pain
  • Disproportionate pain
  • Absence of objective findings during medical evaluations and diagnostic tests
  • Psychological and emotional factors
  • Pain influenced by emotions and stress
  • Response to psychological interventions

Important Note about Coexisting Psychogenic Pain

It’s important to note that psychogenic pain can coexist with other types of pain or medical conditions. 


A thorough evaluation by professionals is necessary to diagnose psychogenic pain. This is especially true when trying to differentiate psychogenic pain from other forms of pain.

Diagnostic Tools for Identifying Psychogenic Pain

As mentioned above, one common sign of psychogenic pain is a lack of any findings in certain medical tests. 


While this is true, there are some diagnostic tools that can help identify psychogenic pain.

Medical History and Physical Examination

Healthcare providers will take a detailed medical history to understand the nature of the pain. 


This includes:

  • Onset
  • Duration
  • Associated symptoms

A thorough physical examination helps assess any physical abnormalities or signs of specific medical conditions that could be contributing to the pain.

Diagnostic Tests

Diagnostic tests aren’t used to identify psychogenic pain in a traditional sense. Instead, they are used to rule out any other potential causes of pain. 


These tests include blood tests, imaging studies, and nerve conduction studies. 

Psychological Assessment

A psychological assessment may be conducted to evaluate the presence of psychological factors. 


This includes conditions like depression, anxiety, or trauma that may contribute to the development or maintenance of psychogenic pain. 


This assessment may involve interviews, questionnaires, or other standardized psychological tests.

When asking “what is psychogenic pain,” it is important to understand the role of psychology.

Multidisciplinary Approach

A multidisciplinary approach involves collaboration between healthcare professionals from different disciplines. This includes pain management, psychology, and physical therapy.


This approach aims to comprehensively assess and address the physical, psychological, and social aspects of the pain experience.

Response to Treatment

The response to treatment can also provide insights into the nature of the pain.


Psychogenic pain often shows improvement with interventions that target the psychological and emotional aspects. 


These interventions include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Stress management strategies

Treatment Options for Psychogenic Pain

Asking “what is psychogenic pain” is only one part of learning about your condition. It is also important to learn about the treatment available. 


Treating psychogenic pain involves a multidisciplinary approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of the condition. The goal is to alleviate pain, improve functioning, and enhance overall well-being.


Below are some treatment options that may be used.

Psychological Interventions

Psychotherapy is often effective in managing psychogenic pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals identify and change unhealthy thoughts, behaviors, and emotional responses associated with pain. 


It can also teach:

  • Coping strategies
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Stress management
  • Problem-solving skills

Mind-Body Approaches

After learning more about “what is psychogenic pain,” individuals are more aware of the connection between the mind and body.


Mind-body approaches include techniques like: 

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Relaxation training
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnosis.

These approaches help individuals develop greater awareness and control over their physical and emotional responses. 


This includes reducing pain perception and promoting relaxation.

Physical Therapy and Exercise

Physical therapy may be recommended to:
  • Address physical limitations
  • Improve flexibility
  • Strengthen muscles
  • Enhance physical function

Benefits of Tailored Exercise Programs

Exercise programs tailored to individual capabilities and needs can help in various ways. This includes:
  • Managing pain
  • Reducing muscle tension
  • Improving mood
  • Increasing well-being


Depending on the severity and specific characteristics of the pain, medications may be prescribed. 


These can include:

  • Analgesics
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Antidepressants

These help modulate pain perception and address co-existing psychological conditions.

Stress Management Techniques

Since stress can worsen psychogenic pain, stress management techniques are beneficial. 


This includes:

  • Relaxation exercises
  • Deep breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation

Education and Self-Management Strategies

Understanding the nature of psychogenic pain, its relationship with emotions and stress, and learning self-management strategies can empower individuals in coping with their pain. 


Education about pain physiology, pacing activities, energy conservation, and lifestyle modifications can be valuable in managing symptoms.

Supportive Therapies

Complementary and alternative therapies include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic care
  • Yoga

These therapies can help reduce pain, promote relaxation, and improve overall well-being.

What is Psychogenic Pain?

How Can Patients Manage Psychogenic Pain on a Day-to-Day Basis?

If you’ve asked “what is psychogenic pain” yourself, you may need more in-depth information. This includes information on managing your symptoms.

Pain Management Strategies

Managing psychogenic pain on a day-to-day basis involves a combination of self-care strategies and coping techniques. 


These strategies include:

  • Self-awareness
  • Stress management
  • Regular physical activity
  • Pacing and activity modification
  • Cognitive strategies
  • Social support
  • Healthy lifestyle habits
  • Distraction and enjoyable activities
  • Seeking professional support

Remember, each person’s experience with psychogenic pain is unique. 


It may take time to find the most effective strategies. It is important to be patient and listen to your body. 

What is Psychogenic Pain Treatment like at J. Flowers Health Institute?

At J. Flowers Health Institute, we specialize in education and high-quality care. Our team specializes in providing information and support for those with this complex condition. 


Discover the underlying causes, common symptoms, and the latest advancements in treatment options.

What to Expect from J. Flowers Health

At J. Flowers, you’ll gain valuable insights into psychogenic pain. These go beyond the typical answers given to “what is psychogenic pain?” 


Our resources will empower you to take control of your condition and make informed decisions about your health.

Contact J. Flowers Health Today

Reach out to us today for answers to questions like “what is psychogenic pain?” and “how can I treat it?”