The Relationship Between Emotional and Physical Pain
The purpose of pain is to warn us that there is danger or potential danger to our person and that we should do something about it so as to stop the damage and so save our lives. Physical pain warns of tissue damage. Both emotional and physical pain go a long way in keeping us safe and in keeping us away from people or things that are not good for us and will hurt us.
Biologically, both emotional and physical pain are experienced the same way as they are both reactions of the brain to the neurotransmitters. There is no specific centre in the brain for recognizing pain, but rather the whole brain is involved in the process showing the importance of pain to our survival.
Research has shown that both kinds of pain may be acknowledged by the brain but it is the mind that perceives the situation to be painful. This would explain why some people have a high pain threshold and while others have a low one. Those with stronger minds seem to endure pain better than those with weaker minds, for example, while some people move on after the death of a spouse, others will mourn till the day they die themselves.
Emotional pain may induce physical pain, such instances as when experiencing a betrayal or death of a loved one, the physical heart may feel pain as in a broken heart. But physical pain rarely ever induces emotional pain unless in extreme circumstances where a person fails to recover from a physical ailment and falls into a pit of sadness.
The significant difference between emotional and physical pain is that while physical pain dulls and fades over time it is not the same for emotional pain. While you can remember that the actual situation was painful in the case of physical pain, for emotional pain every time you remember the situation you feel the pain just like you felt it at that moment. A scar may remind you of falling down a tree 10 years ago but you will feel no pain, while the death of your parent may hurt you for the rest of your life every time you remember it.
It has also been found that some people seek out and use physical pain as a way of dulling the emotional pain. People who are in extreme emotional pain such as self hate or shame may seek out physical pain such as self mutilation in an attempt to reduce the emotional pain they feel. They keep hoping that if they are in enough physical pain then they would not feel the painful emotions.
Emotional and physical pain are interrelated and may be experienced in combination at times, but while physiological pain will fade unless it is chronic pain, psychological pain may stay with an individual for a lifetime and so is more dangerous. If your emotions are getting the better of you then it is time you went to see a specialist.