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Taylor, G.J. (2008). The Challenge of Chronic Pain: A Psychoanalytic Approach. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 36(1):49-68.

(2008). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 36(1):49-68

The Challenge of Chronic Pain: A Psychoanalytic Approach

Graeme J. Taylor, M.D.

Although patients with medically unexplained chronic pain are sometimes referred for psychiatric consultation, it is rare for them to be recommended for a psychoanalytically informed treatment. Moreover, because they experience their distress as primarily physical, it is difficult to engage such patients in psychoanalysis. Nonetheless, the psychoanalytic understanding of conversion symptom formation, and of how childhood trauma and adverse attachment experiences impact on the mind-brain-body-complex, can be integrated with the current neuromatrix theory of pain and thereby offer a comprehensive theoretical model and guide for the psychoanalytic treatment of some patients with chronic pain syndromes. The author illustrates this approach by reporting the analysis of a patient with chronic pelvic pain who had obtained no relief from a host of medical and psychiatric therapies. The analytic process of linking the pain with emotional trauma and pathologic internal object relations, and thereby symbolizing the pain, allowed the patient to discover multiple meanings for the symptom and make important life changes as the pain subsided.

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