Home » News » Conquering ‘Mental Defeat’ of Chronic Pain to Improve Quality of Life

Conquering ‘Mental Defeat’ of Chronic Pain to Improve Quality of Life

Conquering 'Mental Defeat' of Chronic Pain to Improve Quality of Life Overcoming what some researchers are calling “mental defeat” is viewed as a means to help someone with chronic pain regain control over their life.

Experts say the relatively new concept of mental defeat has previously been associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers define mental defeat as a state in which someone with chronic pain views it as an “enemy” which takes over his or her life, eroding autonomy and identity.

A new study of chronic pain patients suggests that targeting feelings of mental defeat could prevent severe depression, anxiety and interference with daily activities.

In the new study, researchers followed three groups of individuals living in Hong Kong — people with chronic pain who had sought specialist treatment, people with chronic pain who did not require specialist treatment and people with acute pain.

The chronic pain individuals reported pain in a variety of sites, with the majority in both groups identifying back pain as their predominant complaint.

Researchers monitored levels of mental defeat through how much the participants agreed with statements such as “because of the pain I felt destroyed as a person” and “I felt humiliated and that I was losing my sense of “inner dignity.”

When the two groups of individuals with chronic pain were compared, those who were seeking specialist treatment for their pain were found to have higher levels of mental defeat than those who did not require such treatment.

Both chronic pain groups had higher levels of mental defeat than the acute pain group.

The study also found that people who had a sense of mental defeat because of pain also reported higher levels of depression and anxiety as well as a higher incidence of the pain interfering with their daily lives.

The findings of the Hong Kong study reflect earlier studies carried out in the United Kingdom, which suggests that mental defeat is common across cultures.

The study’s lead author, Nicole Tang, Ph.D., said: “The presence of mental defeat in both Western and Eastern populations suggests that aspects of the psychological impact of pain on people’s sense of self and identity are shared across geographical boundaries.

“We know from work in the UK that mental defeat is a significant factor differentiating chronic patients who thrive despite pain from those who develop high levels of distress, depression and interference from pain in their everyday lives.”

Tang said the study results suggest that early screening for mental defeat can predict whether a patient will go on to suffer from severe anxiety and depression.”

“Standard group pain management programs do not have a treatment component targeting the sense of mental defeat,” she said. “The current development of multidisciplinary pain management services in Hong Kong presents an opportunity to address this gap with a view towards enhancing overall treatment effectiveness.”

The study is published in The Clinical Journal of Pain.

Source: University of Warwick

Patient at doctors office photo by shutterstock.

Conquering ‘Mental Defeat’ of Chronic Pain to Improve Quality of Life

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Conquering ‘Mental Defeat’ of Chronic Pain to Improve Quality of Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 4 Apr 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.