Question: My Child's Physician Recommended That We Take Him/Her To A Psychologist. Does That Mean The Doctor Thinks This Is 'All In His/Her Head'?
Answer: The issue of psychologists and pain. First of all, the clear answer is no. And often, I'll see children who come to me, and will tell me: "My doctor thinks I'm crazy, because he said I should go see a psychologist. So, he doesn't believe me, he doesn't think the pain is real."
We know that all pain is biological, meaning that all pain is reflected or caused in the body by nerve signaling. There are pain-related nerves that send signals in different ways, there are chemicals in the body that relate to the body's ability to turn off pain.
And we also know that emotions affect pain. Emotions may make pain worse. We know that if you're anxious, if you're worried about something -- and you may be worried about the pain -- we know that anxiety will increase pain. So by learning to work on ways of reducing your anxiety, and recognizing what the stressors are, in fact you can actually help at a biologic level, control pain.
We also know that depression can affect pain.
And finally, we know that our thinking affects pain. How you think about it -- if you feel like the pain's overtaken my life, and I don't know what to do, and I feel out of control, I feel helpless -- that's also where a psychologist can help, to help you regain control over your life, be able to function. And in that process, the pain moves from foreground to background to gone-ground.