Pain invalidation increases guilt and depression risk

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Pain invalidation 

New research shows that suffering invalidation can increase a person’s likelihood of developing depression. Researchers observed that people who believed their pain was rejected were more likely to suffer from sadness as a result.

Pain invalidation increases guilt and depression risk
Pain invalidation increases guilt and depression risk

Pain is a subjective experience that others cannot detect. As a result, persons who are in pain are often unable to express their agony because others, including nurses and doctors, belittle it. Invalidation can manifest itself in a variety of ways. An outsider may recognize a person’s grief but not believe that it necessitates support, or an outsider may deny that pain even exists.

As a result, stigmatization and pain severity may increase as a result of having one’s pain questioned. There have been numerous studies linking pain denial to depressive and anxiety disorders. Researchers Brandon L. Boring and his team believe that shame may play a role in a person’s depression, which has been previously linked to pain invalidation.

Self-consciousness and low self-worth are all symptoms of shame. Shame has long been linked to pain, and Boring and colleagues now indicate that this connection may be exacerbated if someone else ignores your discomfort. It was determined that pain invalidation, despair, and humiliation were all linked to a sample of college students.

There were 478 participants in the study. Women outnumber men by a wide margin (328 to 139), while 10 people did not declare their gender, and one was classified as “other.” Chronic pain was not an issue for any of the kids. Participants were asked to complete questionnaires that assessed the validity of their pain from three different sources—friends, family members, and doctors. How did each of these categories of people react to the student’s grief in this past year? The questions pushed students to think about this. Assessments for shame and depression were also completed by the participants.

A surprising number of students reported discomfort and invalidation during the course of the study. Most participants (99.4%) indicated that family members had invalidated their pain. Similarly, 98.9% of people said that their friends or family members had invalidated their pain, while 95.5 percent said their doctors had invalidated their agony. Shame and depression were found to be closely linked when the pain was invalidated in any of these ways.

Every aspect of pain invalidation and depression were intertwined through the influence of shame. When others including loved ones and health care providers discount the severity of one’s suffering, it can lead to increased feelings of guilt and, consequently, depressive symptoms. Interestingly, similar effects were observed in both men and women, with the exception of pain invalidation from doctors, which was shown to be going in the same direction but not statistically significant in men.

According to these studies, pain invalidation triggers depression in part because of the role played by shame in the process. A person’s sorrow is invalidated if other people don’t show empathy or support for them, according to a study by academics. A person in pain may begin to doubt their own subjective condition and human value as a result, leading to feelings of guilt and inadequacy, according to the study. Depression can develop if a person’s negative emotions are compounded by the presence of ongoing discomfort.

Because of indications that depression has a role, the study authors are particularly concerned by the findings. The study’s authors believe the findings are particularly alarming because depression has been shown to increase the likelihood that acute pain may become chronic. Because their study focused on acute pain not artificially inflicted in the lab, the researchers think it is a first in the field. However, a similar study involving persons with chronic pain should be done in order to broaden the study’s clinical implications.

People’s reactions to other people’s pain can be improved, according to the study. “Validating the subjective pain experience of patients may develop interpersonal trust between patients and clinicians and improve pain outcomes,” Boring and his colleagues write in the journal Pain. Greater awareness of the subjective character of pain and the need for support for persons in pain may protect against the mutually reinforcing depression-pain cycle.”

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