HSE learns how to measure mental pain – News – IQ: Research and Education Portal – HSE University

Situation: Mental pain is believed to be a non-scientific concept, used more in everyday life to refer to non-physical suffering.

In practice: The concept of “mental pain” exists in psychological science. Furthermore, it is operationalized and can be measured using a special psychometric tool.

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The Higher School of Economics adapted the full and short versions of Robert Holden’s Heartache Scale (Psychicache Scale, PAS). It is the most common assessment tool in non-physical pain research. In the last two decades, several foreign versions of the scale have appeared, as well as its short version for the rapid assessment of non-physical pain. 562 respondents participated in the adaptation of the Russian version (280 men and 282 women aged 18 to 78). The results of the adaptation were published in the journal “Questions of psychology“.

What are we talking about?

Everyone knows that pain can be not only physical. However, just in the past year, the traditional medical understanding of pain has shifted to a new biopsychosocial definition of the condition as “an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated with or resembling actual or potential tissue damage.” “This seemingly minor change marked the official recognition of non-physical pain by the International Association for the Study of Pain (International Association for the Study of Pain, IASP),” says the author of the study, senior researcher at the International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation, associate professor of the Department of Psychology at the National Research University Higher School of Economics Alena Zolotareva in her article.

Today, there are several terms to define non-physical pain: pain is social, emotional, mental and psychological. But the umbrella concept in English literature is more of a neologism psychic, which was proposed in the early 1990s by the suicidologist Edwin Shneidman, the researcher points out. “This term can be translated into Russian precisely as mental pain and, accordingly, used as a synonym for social, emotional, mental and psychological pain,” explains Alena Zolotareva.

One of the causes of mental pain is the loss of someone or something significant and attractive to a person. This can be, for example, the loss of a loved one due to death or separation, the physical or symbolic loss of a part of oneself in the background of diffuse personal boundaries, functional or organic diseases, traumatic experience of relationships, encounters with difficulties. life circumstances, etc.

“Over time, the symptoms of psychological pain in the form of guilt, shame, resentment, loneliness or disappointment can take a material basis and become psychosomatic, cleverly disguised as respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases or gastrointestinal discomfort,” comments the researcher.

Mental pain can also accompany mental disorders. Research shows that patients with depressive disorders have extremely high rates of mental pain. This makes them a particular suicidal risk group. Mental pain has also been shown to reliably predict self-injurious behavior in adulthood.

Currently, as Alena Zolotareva points out, researchers are showing greater interest in diagnosing mental pain due to its close connection with a person’s suicidal thoughts and actions. British psychologist Robert Holden and his colleagues published the Mental Pain Scale in 2001. It has since become a common assessment tool in non-physical pain research. Several of its foreign versions have appeared, including the Russian one. The aim of the current work was to adapt the full and short versions of the Scale to a sample of Russian-speaking respondents.

How did you study?

562 respondents (280 men and 282 women) aged between 18 and 78 took part in the study. All respondents completed the tests online. The link to the questionnaire was sent by the Anketologist company to the respondents who subscribed to it.

In the course of the study, in addition to the Russian version of the Mental Pain Scale, all respondents also completed the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scales (Depression, anxiety and stress scales-21, DASS-21) Sid Lovibond and Peter Lovibond adapted by Alena Zolotareva. “These methods are aimed at evaluating depression (as a state consisting of experiences of apathy, dysphoria and hopelessness), anxiety (as a state of autonomic arousal and skeletal muscle tension) and stress (as a state of chronic unspecific arousal, accompanied of irritability and difficulty relaxing); they also make it possible to assess the interviewee’s general level of psychological discomfort”, says the researcher.

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The scale was translated into Russian using a direct translation procedure, which, as Alena Zolotareva explains, is recognized by modern specialists in the field of psychometrics as sufficient for cross-cultural adaptation of a diagnostic tool. Examples of scale items: “My pain makes my life terrible” or “My pain makes me want to scream.” In the course of the work, statistical data analysis methods were used.

what did you get

The results of the analysis confirmed that the Russian version of the Mental Pain Scale, both the full version and the short version, is a psychometrically sound diagnostic tool. The full version of the Scale was successfully tested to comply with the original factorial structure of this tool, which allows us to speak of its factorial validity.

The researcher points out that in the literature in English there is no information about special studies on the gender and age specificity of mental pain. In the course of the work carried out, it turned out that women and younger people have the highest rates of mental pain. Such results are indirectly confirmed by foreign studies of suicidal activity and self-injurious behavior.

For example, Dutch scientists recently studied the phenomenon of communication associated with suicide. It consists of “the act of conveying one’s suicidal thoughts, intentions, or behaviors to another person.”

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“A retrospective analysis of interviews with young people who later died by complete suicide, as well as an analysis of their suicide notes and suicide methods, showed that the girls had prior, explicit and targeted communication related to suicide, as well as more .focused on overcoming difficulties, seeking help and support from others,” says Alena Zolotareva. Among young people, on the other hand, communication related to suicide was often ambiguous or diluted with humorous connotations.

What is it for?

Today, the process of studying mental pain, as the researcher points out, went beyond suicidology and began to be filled with data from other medical and psychological studies. Thus, in one of the works it was shown that the terminally ill patients mostly reported mental pain. It was universal in nature and did not depend on physical pain, severity of illness, sex, age and religious affiliation.

Severe mental pain has also been reported by patients with fibromyalgia, skin and cardiovascular diseases. “Consequently, the Scale adapted in this study opens up opportunities for studying mental pain in Russian psychosomatic medicine,” comments Alena Zolotareva. The Russian version of the scale can be used in both full and short form to assess a person’s psychological pain.
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