Is it All in Your Head?

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“It’s all in your head.” There are few statements in the world that feel more demeaning and demoralizing than that one. You’re experiencing pain, yet because you show no visible signs of injury or illness, a family member or boss tells you, “It’s all in your head.” It hurts because it’s a form of gaslighting. What they’re actually saying is one or more of the following:

  • “I don’t believe you.”
  • “You’re crazy.”
  • “I don’t want to hear you complain.”
  • “I don’t want to face the fact that you need help.”

In some cases, it’s that the other person feels helpless about how to address your pain. In others, as in when your pain was caused by someone’s negligence, it’s a way of avoiding responsibility. If the pain isn’t real, then they can’t be held responsible or liable for it.

So…is it all in your head? The answer might surprise you.

YES. It’s all in your head.

BUT…that doesn’t make the pain any less valid.

Let’s explain.

All Pain Is in Your Head

It’s a scientific fact that all pain originates in the brain. If you experience a physical injury like a broken limb, you may feel pain in that arm or leg, but the signal originates in the brain. Even if your physical body seems perfectly fine and healthy, your brain can “create” pain that you feel as real as any other. How often do we hear stories of paraplegics who claim to “feel” sensations like they’re getting pricked with pins and needles even though their spinal cord was entirely severed–or an amputee feels pain in an arm that is no longer there? That’s because the pain signal originates in the brain, not in the injured part of the body.

All Pain Is Real and Valid

So what if there are no physical triggers for your pain–in other words, what if there is no physical injury or illness involved? What if the pain is psychosomatic (i.e., without physical explanation) or generated by psychological or emotional trauma? Is that pain any less valid or less real?

No. Since all pain originates in the brain, and because you are feeling the pain, the source of the pain is not what makes it valid. Whether it’s physical, psychosomatic, or emotional, all pain is real because you are the one feeling it. Furthermore, all pain is valid because regardless of the source, it’s lessening your quality of life or hindering you from daily activities. It’s still pain, which means the pain still needs to be addressed.

Think of pain as your body’s alarm system. It is sending a signal that something is wrong. Just as home security systems sometimes malfunction, our brains sometimes send pain signals without visible explanation. But the alarm is still sounding–you’re not making it up. And just like you have to fix a faulty security system, you still need treatment to find the source of the pain, even if the source is the mind itself.

What to Do When the Pain Is Unexplained

So what do you do when someone says, “It’s all in your head?” Answer: Ignore them and get help for the pain. Specifically, take these steps:

  • Seek treatment. If doctors can’t find a physical source of the pain, it’s okay to seek help from mental health professionals. Remember, the pain is real and valid, no matter where it’s coming from.
  • Examine your environment and routine. Sometimes pain is triggered by hidden or unexpected things–for example, contaminated water/food, mold in the walls, or even repetitive movements we make on the job.
  • If you believe your pain is caused by someone’s negligence, talk to an attorney. If you’re in pain–whether that pain is physical or psychological–it’s creating a loss in your life. If someone else is to blame for that loss, they should be legally held liable for it.

A good personal injury attorney can get past the “It’s all in your head” argument to help you get the compensation you deserve. The attorneys at the McCraw Law Group can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.