Algophobia refers to the fear of having physical pain. Nobody wants to get pain but people who have this phobia have severe feelings of depression and worrying and they get a panic attack when they think about pain.
Anxiety as a result of algophobia can make you sensitive towards the pain. This phobia is common in people who suffer from chronic pain syndromes. Other names for algophobia are ‘pain anxiety’ or ‘pain-related-fear’.
A study reported that half of the people who suffer from low back pain have a feeling of fear about their pain. Chronic pain affects approximately twenty and fifty percent of people over all the world. You can say that it is one of the common reasons to visit a healthcare provider.
It can affect your mental health too. Another study reported that approximately 67% of the people who have chronic pain suffer from the symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Sudden anxiety and fear work to protect us from situations that are dangerous. When we see a bear, it is natural to feel that we should escape. The reason is that we feel scared. But people who suffer from chronic pain develop persistent fear and anxiety.
They avoid certain situations or events that they think can induce more pain or can make their pain worse. Exaggeration of pain threat can actually make your pain worse. Many people suffer from this condition unfortunately who exaggerate their pain threat.
The same chemicals present in your brain are responsible for regulating your pain perception which regulates your anxiety and fear. An imbalance in these chemicals can cause more issues.
Anyone can suffer from the symptoms of algophobia but it is common in people of older age who experience chronic pain syndromes. Following are the common types of chronic pain.
- Headaches and cancer-related pain
- Inflammatory pain (occurs due to autoimmune disorders or infections)
- Musculoskeletal pain like arthritis or back pain
- Neurogenic pain that occurs due to the damage of nerves and nervous system disorders
- Psychogenic pain that is related to psychological factors
- Nociceptive pain that occurs due to tissue injuries like a bruise, sprain, or burns
People who have algophobia can experience the following cycle of anxiety and pain.
- Catastrophizing: People with algophobia can catastrophize when they perceive or imagine the worst possible consequence in any situation. You may start perceiving your pain as a threat if you have algophobia. For example, any simple activity can seem dangerous to you like getting mail. If you break your leg after falling on the way to the mailbox, the pain might stop you from earning or working.
- Hypervigilance: People react to pain threats when they focus on them intensely. They can experience fear from anticipating the condition of pain, not experiencing it in the reality. Some people with algophobia associate certain bodily sensations or activities that are harmless to their pain.
- Fear-Avoidance: You may avoid certain movements or activities that you believe can inflict pain on you. Some people may develop kinesophobia that is the fear of pain that occurs due to movement. It stops people to heal and rehabilitate. Avoidance can cause further disability, health issues or can enhance pain. It can also hinder you to perform normal functioning at work, school, or in social situations.
It is possible that people who have algophobia can get panic attacks when they suddenly think of pain. Symptoms include excessive sweating, chills, dyspepsia which is indigestion, and heart palpitations.
Moreover, algophobia can also cause nausea, shaking or trembling, and shortness of breath. Do not avoid your symptoms if you think you have algophobia. Seek help from your doctor and discuss your symptoms with him or her in order to be diagnosed properly.
It is tough to diagnose algophobia specifically in people who are suffering from chronic pain syndromes.
A healthcare provider tries to differentiate between the fear of pain and the real pain people experience. It is necessary to provide detailed information about your pain to the doctor.
Tell your doctor how pain hurts you and how long does it lasts. Also, tell him or her doctor how often you suffer from the pain. He or she may ask you about your emotions regarding pain. Healthcare providers use a test named Pain Anxiety Symptom Scale (PASS).
This test is used to check the severity of the symptoms of algophobia. You have to rate certain statements’ responses on this scale. Your doctor can also use other scales to detect the level of your avoidance or kinesophobia.
A healthcare provider can suggest you following treatments.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Exposure Therapy
- Physical activity or exercise