Disorder Information Sheets

Mental Health Information from PsychNet-UK
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Pain Disorder

The diagnosis is made in patients when pain has existed for at least six months and there is strong evidence that psychological factors have caused or are maintaining the pain. Many of these patients have depressive illnesses, and in some of them major depression may be the root cause. The main diagnostic criteria is as follows:

The patient's presenting problem is clinically important pain in one or more body areas.

The pain causes distress that is clinically important or impairs work, social or personal functioning.

Psychological factors seem important in the onset, maintenance, severity or worsening of the pain.

Other Disorders (Mood, Anxiety, Psychotic) do not explain the symptoms better, and the patient
     does not meet criteria for Dyspareunia.

The patient doesn't consciously feign the symptoms for material gain (Malingering) or to occupy
     the sick role (Factitious Disorder).

Associated Features:

None Detailed


Differential Diagnosis 

Some disorders have similar or even the same symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in his/her diagnostic attempt has to differentiate against the following disorders which need to be ruled out to establish a precise diagnosis.

None Detailed


Pain disorder may develop due to a conversion mechanism.. And quite a few patients have what is called a "pain-prone personality:" they have long-standing feelings of guilt and worthlessness about themselves, and they chronically feel that they are in need of punishment or atonement. Needless to say, physical pain may play such a role, and the onset of the pain may be seen in these patients when things seem to be going otherwise unexpectedly well in their lives. There is some association between this personality style and a history of childhood (and subsequent adult) abuse and/or victimization. Others  (often women) experience pain for which no cause can be found.  It appears suddenly, usually after a stress, and may disappear in days or last years.


The goal of treatment is to ease the pain and help the person learn how to live with it. Invasive evaluations and surgical interventions should be avoided if possible.

Counseling and Psychotherapy [ See Therapy Section ]:

Psychiatric referrals may be helpful, though many people with this disorder resist psychiatric interventions. Some patients with a somatoform pain disorder rarely acknowledge that their illness has a psychological component and will usually reject psychiatric treatment.

Pain Disorder Associated with a General Medical Condition may be treated with a course of general pain killers.. This term is used for any patient who has pain that is mainly caused, worsened or maintained by a general medical condition, so long as any psychological factors play at most a minor role. This is not considered to be a mental disorder.

Somatoform Disorders & Pain Management