Psychological Factors In The Individual Experience Of Pain
The psychology of pain is a complex area of study. Although pain is universal in that every human being experiences it in one form or another, individual feelings of and responses to pain vary greatly. Each individual has a unique pain threshold (the point at which they first begin to experience pain) and tolerance to pain. Cultural heritage, tension, emotions, fears, and expectations all play a role in the experience of pain.
For example, in certain cultures specific rites and rituals may involve a pain that is readily accepted by the people within that particular society. Scientists believe that people in these cultures experience that pain to a far lesser degree than others from different cultures would if they underwent the same experience. In such cases, the ability to focus on other aspects of the ritual, such as its social or religious ramifications, may act as a psychological sedative that helps the individual better tolerate the pain or, perhaps, feel no pain at all. The expectation of pain also determines how much pain is felt. Two people, for example, may go to the dentist; the person who has greater anxiety about the experience is likely to feel a greater amount of pain. Tension and emotional states may also cause biochemical changes that lower the amount of endorphins (naturally occurring opiates) produced by the brain.