Pain is such a common human experience, that we don't spend much time thinking about it. There are all the variations of physical pain, and we recognize and try and treat those symptoms without hesitation in medicine.
There is a whole different realm of pain, that we completely ignore. I am talking about emotional pain. More and more research is showing the damage that our brains experience when we undergo emotional pain. Long Term Pain Remains
I have started addressing emotional pain as I would any other symptom in practice. Emotional pain gets pain relief in my practice now the same way physical pain would. For me that means white willow bark. But if my children were traveling and something happened that generated significant emotional pain then I would even consider drugs that I never use like tylenol.
But what about the challenges and test of childhood that make us grow up to be people of substance? I do think there is any more validity to the concept of healthy emotional pain then there is to health physical pain. In fact, in my experience, the greater the number of emotional traumas reported by patients the greater the likelihood of disordered emotional states like anxiety and depression.
This is exactly the same thing we would find with physical pain. If a patient came in reporting 10 years of knee pain we wouldn't expect the function of their knee to be ideal. If a patient comes in reporting years of emotional pain we would not expect their emotional function to be ideal.
I really believe that it is time to start paying attention to emotional pain, as pain. It is important as doctors, as patients, as parents and friends, that we start becoming aware when a person is expressing emotional pain and that we start doing whatever we can to mitigate the effects of the illness.