A normal psychology of everyday pain


  • Disclosures The author’s institution has received an honorary payment from Reckitt Benckiser for presenting at a symposium related to this topic.

Christopher Eccleston, PhD, Centre for Pain Research, The University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
Tel.: +44 1225 386439
Fax: +44 1225 383833
Email: c.eccleston@bath.ac.uk


Proposed is a psychology of pain that focusses on normal psychological reactions to pain. A normal psychology of pain seeks to explain what normal people (those who would not meet any criteria for any psychological disorder) do when faced with pain. Herein, we focus on everyday pain defined as pain that is clinically unimportant that arises from normal everyday activity. Pain functions to interrupt current concerns and promote problem solving typically in the form of escape, pain management, or request for assistance. A model of analgesic problem solving is described. Focussing on pain as an interruption leads us to think about the purpose of analgesics in repairing attention and returning function. New endpoints for analgesic performance are offered. Similarly, a focus on pain as a motivation for analgesia demands that we understand how people self-medicate its relative success, and what influences patterns of self-medication. Finally, the problem of pain in children and adolescents, including self-medication in youth, is discussed. Although there is limited small-scale research on young people and their knowledge about analgesics, very little is known about their beliefs, attitudes to analgesics and their self-medication behaviour. Adolescents in most societies are left largely unguided. There is little child-specific communication about how to manage pain. Most children rely on parental knowledge, although increasingly the internet is becoming a source of advice for young people learning about analgesics.