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partyparty's avatar

Which hurts more - physical pain or mental pain?

Asked by partyparty (9142points) June 16th, 2010

When someone has a physical pain, there are many remedies. People accept you are hurting and offer sympathy.
When someone has a mental pain, people turn can turn away or not understand.
Does the mental pain hurt equally? Is physical pain worse? Have you any experience of this? How did you deal with it?

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42 Answers

xStarlightx's avatar

Mental pain is WAY worse then physical.
With physical pain you can take two vicoden and get a doctors note and call it a day.
Mental pain stays with you for the rest of your life depending on how bad the memory is pain is.
The only way to deal with mental pain is to face the problem head on, talk to a specialist about it and try to get through it with yourself intact as much as possible and remember to never just give up.

Blackberry's avatar

Physical pain, but this is coming from someone who does not put too much importance on emotions anyways. But physical pain can actually kill you instantly…..

reverie's avatar

Honestly, I don’t think there’s any objective way of saying which is “worse” or which “hurts more”.

In my experience, I have found mental pain to be worse, but that may just be because I have been fortunate enough not to ever have experienced a severe physical illness or accident. I wouldn’t want to judge whether falling into a bath of acid or losing a limb is more painful than, say, an important relationship breaking up, or some form of bereavement, because I think that both are going to be highly painful, in very different ways, and each form of pain has so many different potential consequences.

I suppose, in some respects, mental pain can be more challenging to cope with as it tends to be invisible. Many physical pains aren’t visible either, but sometimes, if the pain has a direct source (e.g., an illness or injury), being able to identify the source of the pain can help. Sometimes it is harder to seek support for things that are invisible, or too nebulous to really identify or pin down, which can be the very nature of certain types of mental pain. In terms of comparing them on the basis of mortality, @Blackberry, of course, physical pain can result in death, but I would argue that mental pain can also lead to fatality, when it results in suicide.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

@xStarlightx – very right! Plus, not many people understand that since it is not visible!

BoBo1946's avatar

Having played a lot of basketball, baseball, etc, could always play with physical pain….but, having gone through a real bad divorce…my vote goes to mental pain! give it an A+!

Gemini's avatar

It would depend on the level of either of these ailments, but overall, I think mental pain can be more damaging because it often leads to physical symptoms as well. I have a close family member with mental pain(manic depression) and she lives a very dismal existence alot of the time. When she is deep in depression she doesn’t take care of her physical self either, and she is always on medication which is doing damage to her internal organs.
Others without this kind of mental illness may have stress for any variety of reasons and this also can wreak havoc on your body. However, I imagine the worst of all might be someone with a cronic illness who is always in pain, because that must affect you mentally as well.

Blackberry's avatar

@reverie Yeah I forgot about suicide (although the physical pain is still what kills you).

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’ve destroyed both knees, shattered the inside part of my collar bone so bad the doctor took the time to count the cracks, broken my nose twice, and broken ribs. I’ve also suffered the non-physical pain. I still remember the non-physical pain. It just becomes part of you is how you deal with it.

Seaofclouds's avatar

In my personal experience, I would say it’s been physical pain. I almost died from sepsis and the pain that came with it was excruciating. I ended up being kept sedated for almost a week in order to control the pain and my nausea/vomiting. I have not experienced any mental pain close to what that did to me.

In general though, I would say mental pain would be worse. I’ve been lucky and haven’t had anything cause me a lot of mental pain yet, but I’m sure it will happen in time.

MacBean's avatar

I think physical pain is usually (USUALLY. USUALLY. DO NOT EAT ME ALIVE AND/OR GIVE ME EXAMPLES OF WHEN THIS IS NOT THE CASE.) easier to get rid of, or at least get control of. Mental pain tends to be more lasting. I can’t say which hurts more, though. That really depends on the individual experiencing it.

Cruiser's avatar

Physical pain by far!! I can take a lot of pain and have. A smashed testicle is one of the most intense experiences as far as instant pain…OMG that is insanely intense! But I herniated a disc which translated into 3 months of around the clock sheer agony. Emotional pain is mind blowing for sure but for me no where near the pain experience of physical pain.

olina's avatar

I think it is mental pain.Sometimes you feel pain ,it is because you care it too much.No mater how pain on your body,you wil be well in the futher.But if it is a pain on your heart,it just like a wound which is cut by a knife,each time you see something similar,it will remind you about your wound and you will feel the pain again.

MacBean's avatar

You know what really sucks? When mental pain manifests as physical pain. Then you’ve got both and neither one is easy to manage. UGH.

IsthmusCrypticus's avatar

I think mental pain is harder to deal with then physical pain personally. Physical pain we can generally see the problem and apply a fix to it, or atleast identify its cause to some degree and take the appropriate measures to begin trying to alleviate it. Although i do respect the fact that there is also other aspects of physical pain out there that can be enduring and crippling, the most common form we will experience is acute and short term
Mental pain can be enduring, and very very hard to break away from. Our entire everyday living is bound by our interpersonal cognitive perceptions and interactions. Any type of mental pain can significantly interfere with our lives – it can bring us crashing into the ground, it can destroy any sense of esteem we may have, and with many disorders – they can destroy us; physically and spiritually. But again it’s only my opinion of my experiences with both. Thats the beauty of this topic, theres no right or wrong answer

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@IsthmusCrypticus @olina Welcome to fluther.
I’m going to rephrase my answer, Cruiser made me remember I also hurt my back in a car accident. 18 months of fun. Chronic pain can be extremely debillatating. (If I spelled it right). If there is no end in sight, chronic mental or physical pain would make me want to end my suffering.

Blackberry's avatar

Maybe it is just a matter of who has experienced the most physical and emotional pain and how they handled each individually. I could lose a finger but deal with the pain promptly, and I can suffer the death of a loved one and have no one to talk to, so of course the death would seem more painful because you suffered more through it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Pain just sucks.

CMaz's avatar


Mental hurts, but physical carries both with it.

IsthmusCrypticus's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe thats true. Enduring throbbing pain can really bring you down as well. But its like you sort of point out in your answer and what @Blackberry also points out it comes down to our various experiences and our initial reactions to either mental or physical pain. For me, it feels as though ive endured quite a lot of mental conflicts and disasters – hence for me, mental pain is the most painful thing one could endure. But as you point out, after your car accident, you experienced 18 months of enduring pain. And for you, your definition of whats worse is physical. We are both biased. Everyone will be biased on this topic, because we are all individual beings – no one experiences the world in the same way as the person next to them experiences. Our own identities shape our perceptions of our experience, bringing about such a wide range of answers on this topic. Which i might point out i love. WHOO!!! Bring on the debate!!!

Cruiser's avatar

@IsthmusCrypticus I agree with your comments in rethinking this my herniated disk hurt so much I became depressed and dreaded waking up and recall I would have ended that pain the easy way, but my new son kept me from doing it. I was a complete mess.

partyparty's avatar

@xStarlightx Yes mental pain can stay with you for almost forever. Good advice, thanks
@Blackberry How can the physical pain kill you? Just wondered.
@reverie Yes indeed mental pain can lead to suicide. So very sad.
@BoBo1946 Yes the mind is extremely powerful, don’t you think?

Fyrius's avatar

Which is heavier – a barbell or a pile of bricks? That depends on how many bricks on the pile or weight plates on the barbell.

You can have a deceased lover and a stubbed toe, or a broken leg and a missed favourite TV show.

What exactly do you want to know?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Mental is worse. Physical pain is usually traceable to a physical cause and can be dealt with. Mental pain just keeps haunting you.

Fyrius's avatar

Mental pain is usually traceable to a mental cause and can be dealt with. Ever been to a shrink?

HTDC's avatar

Both types of pain are horrible. But mental pain has a different feeling that can’t be comparable to physical pain, it’s hard to describe, but when you’re in physical pain you wish it were just mental, and when you’re in mental pain you wish it were physical instead. They’re both bad.

partyparty's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Oh you poor thing, all those broken bones.
@MacBean Yes I suppose mental pain can last a lifetime, thanks
@Cruiser I will have to take your word about the smashed testicle. I can well imagine it would be extremely painful and eye watering!!
@olina Lovely answer, thanks

Blackberry's avatar

@partyparty One can be stabbed and bleed to death….lol.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Fyrius You’re correct, there are incurable mental as well as physical conditions.

josie's avatar

The word pain does not actually apply to the mental state. It is just one more post modern construct that, when you think about it makes no sense, but people have bought it never the less.
There is physical pain. There is mental anguish.
They are each unpleasant to be sure, but they are different phenomena.

Cruiser's avatar

@partyparty I took a direct hit fastball there and the best way to describe it is a grenade going off in your belly….eye, nose, mouth, ear watering. The only thing I can laugh about was all my friends walking around bent over holding their crotches in sympathy pain…everybody was grimacing going oohhh owwww! lol!

BoBo1946's avatar

gentleman was having some physical problems and his doctor told him that he had to drink warm water with Epsom salts one hour before breakfast. At the end of a week he returned and the doctor asked if he was feeling better. The man said that he actually felt worse.

“Did you drink warm salt water an hour before breakfast each day?” the Doc asked.

“No,” replied the man somberly, letting out a sigh.

“I could only do about 15 minutes!”

partyparty's avatar

@Blackberry Thoughtful answer, thanks
@HTDC Yes neither pain is good, I agree
@Cruiser Ouch :-)))))))
@BoBo1946 Naughty but nice. If only we all could be as cheerful as you my friend
@Blackberry Yes but which pain would be worse while you are bleeding to death? The physical pain because you know you are bleeding, or the mental pain knowing you are likely to die? LOLL

Cruiser's avatar

@partyparty Bleeding to death is quite peaceful, at least for me it was quite a wonderful feeling. You just get real real tired and beg to go to sleep! But thanks to an army of Dr’s and Nurses they wouldn’t let me and were able to give me another go at life.

partyparty's avatar

@Cruiser Oh my gosh, you were actually bleeding to death? How awful for you.

Cruiser's avatar

I didn’t feel a thing, just real tired and passed out…it was awful for my parents though as they had a priest give me last rites!

majorrich's avatar

After watching some programs on TV I have to believe mental/emotional pain is more lasting. I’ve seen people do the same thing over and over again with painful consequences (on TV usually genital trauma). I read somewhere the Human brain doesn’t remember or process pain in the same way an animal does. I guess thats what makes boxers keep getting beat up for the sake of sport.

nebule's avatar

well I reckon the combination of the two when you don’t deal with the mental pain and it manifests itself as physical…that’s a real problem to get out of and it hurts like hell

Berserker's avatar

I think the two are way too different to actually relate, beyond them sharing the same word. :/
But on the other hand…
I’ve heard of war prisoners being tortured in ways that are unimaginable, but who were, eventually, rescued. Many of them go insane or end up killing themselves. Physical pain can be disastrous and horrendous, especially when it carries into your mental like that.

That’s not to say that mental pain is nowhere near as bad; people often hurt and kill themselves because of it. Life long mental disorders, too big a tragedy to handle, psychological trauma…
But people can adapt, lie to themselves, delude themselves, or get over it, or learn to deal with it somehow. If your leg gets shrapnelled off, well you can’t pretend it’s still there.

But either way, people still manage somehow. (Wheelchairs, shrinks, pills, hell, even drugs and booze; those last two really aren’t an answer, but I suppose they can be seen as alternatives by some.) Even though the two can meet and engender the other, I’m saying I have no actual answer because as simplistic as this question sounds, this is way too complicated for me, and I don’t se a proper contrast by which to relate them by.

le_inferno's avatar

Isn’t there something to be said for degrees of severity? It’s hardly fair to compare the two, because of all the variations. Some physical pain is just as chronic as mental pain. Both are so different in nature it’s not really a question of “which hurts more.” They can hurt equally, but in separate ways.

partyparty's avatar

@majorrich But perhaps boxers do it for the money! What do you think?
@Symbeline Yes, so because prisoners have had to endure physical pain, in some circumstances it has tipped them ‘over the edge’, and as you say, some end up commiting suicide. Is this because of the physical pain they felt, or is it because their brain is unable to deal with the circumstance?
@le_inferno Could it be something to do with how we ‘deal with pain’ – either physical or emotional?
@lynneblundell Yes I have also heard of emotional pain manifesting as physical pain. That must be really awful.

OpryLeigh's avatar

Mental pain is the most difficult for me to deal with.

wildpotato's avatar

@Cruiser Dying by bleeding to death has been something I feared deeply ever since reading Anne Rice. Thank you very much for sharing your experience above – it doesn’t scare me as much now.—

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