How PTSD Can Increase Pain Sensitivity

How PTSD Can Increase Pain SensitivityPosttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious psychological disorder caused when patients endure emotionally intense events, such as battlefield violence, natural disasters, violent crime or the sudden loss of a loved one. In addition to the well-documented emotional symptoms of PTSD, treatment professionals have also documented a noted increase in sensitivity to physical pain. Understanding the cause of this increased sensitivity can lead to more effective pain management for anyone with this issue.

How PTSD Works

Severe emotional trauma overwhelms the psychological systems of the brain, and this happens in much the same way as a lightning strike overwhelming a home’s circuit breaker. In an effort to protect itself from an emotional collapse, the brain shuts out some traumatic experiences to continue functioning. While this does help people survive the traumatic event, the result is that unprocessed emotions become backed-up in the brain. The corresponding strain causes the following PTSD symptoms:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Panic attacks
  • Avoiding situations that remind the individual of trauma
  • Major depression
  • Thrill-seeking (adrenaline junkies)
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Rage
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Substance abuse

The brain manages emotional and physiological responses through an intricate system of bio-chemical and neurological signals. This same system transmits signals related to physical pain, so any changes to this system can cause someone with PTSD to become either desensitized or hyper-sensitized to pain. This pain may trigger other PTSD symptoms as well. To combat this, many people self-medicate their pain through substance abuse, but this is largely ineffective, because as people become tolerant to painkillers or alcohol, they require larger doses to feel relief. Therefore, as sensitivity to pain increases, users create an even faster path to addiction and lingering chronic pain when they increase their doses and abuse drugs.

Is PTSD Treatable?

While most mental health experts don’t consider PTSD to be curable, it is definitely treatable. Special forms of counseling, such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), can relieve issues and help patients learn to manage their emotions instead of being driven by them. PTSD treatment usually involves a combination of counseling and careful medical treatment. Millions of PTSD patients have found lasting relief, though they must remain vigilant for returning symptoms and future triggers.

Help Managing PTSD and Pain

If you suffer from chronic pain and PTSD, or if you are concerned about someone else’s pain management and substance abuse, then please call our toll-free helpline today. Counselors are standing by 24 hours a day with free, confidential advice and access to the most effective treatment programs available. Only a holistic approach can treat pain alongside underlying emotional causes, and we are here to help you find that relief.