Pain may be defined as an unpleasant sensation which is focussed upon the body, and is often but not always associated with tissue damage. While it may be generally true that physical injury produces pain and that pain occurs as a result of injury, this is by no means always the case. There are many syndromes for which a somatic explanation is not easily available, and the source of the disorder can be attributed either to an abnormality in the way in which normal sensory inputs are processed or to psychological factors. Similarly, people may meet with injury but fail to experience pain as a consequence. This will sometimes happen if the damage occurs suddenly in a compelling situation, such as in battle or on the sportsfield, where attention and emotions are directed elsewhere. It is difficult, therefore, to determine in a priori terms when pain should and should not be experienced, and we must rely primarily upon the individual’s own self-report to indicate whether it is present or absent and the intensity of his feelings. Given a similar degree of pain, however, any two people will react to this in different ways.


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© The British Psychological Society 1982

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  • Colette Ray

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