Pain is partly a neural process that signals tissue damage from a harmful stimulus. But we also know that it is highly subjective, and that a whole range of psychological and social factors can impact on how pain is perceived and experienced. Thoughts, feeling and expectations can influence pain, and even contribute to how people respond to pain killing drugs.
The external social world also impacts on such expectations, and in turn how pain is experienced. For some, the sound of a dentist’s drill – or even just the thought of it – is enough to heighten expectations of pain. Also, who we turn to when we are in pain and how they respond are important social influences on how we manage it.