Interoception: How Awareness of One's Body Affects Pain
There are many levels of personal awareness and the human species falls on a broad spectrum when it comes to being aware of their surroundings, their thoughts and emotions, and the way their body works. Variance in levels of awareness can have a number of different effects on an individual, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the awareness of one’s own body, also known as interoception.
Individuals who are high in interoception are more aware of their bodies then those who are low. They may be able to predict when they are about to get sick, what types of stimuli produce pleasant or painful results, and how their body will react to different environmental factors. Knowing if you are high or low in interoception can also be helpful in determining how you will experience and manage pain. Those who are very aware of their bodies may be able to ward off, withstand, and even control their pain better than those who are low in interoception. Why? Here are a few reasons.
The Ability to be Proactive
Individuals who can identify which stimuli cause them the most pain or who are aware enough of their own bodies to be able to determine when they are getting sick can take proactive avoidance measures. This could include avoiding situations or stimuli that they know will cause them harm or loading up on vitamin C and rest when they feel a cold coming on. Athletes who are hyper aware of their bodies know when they need to hydrate, when they can push themselves further, and when it’s time to rest.
Higher Interpretive Abilities
The sensation of pain must pass through certain channels before an individual experiences the sensation. Pain produces a number of aversive stimuli that need to be interpreted by the brain before they are recognized as painful. Those with higher interoception are more aware of these messages and can therefore spend less time processing them. This frees up their mental capacity to deal with the pain more effectively or take measures to soothe it.
More Capacity to Deal with Chronic Pain
Because those with high interoceptive levels can effectively interpret pain and what it means, they tend to process and deal with pain better then their low interoceptive counterparts. Those who commonly deal with chronic pain, such as athletes, know what is normal and what is not and therefore do not become as anxious or stressed when they experience pain.
Do you know if you have high or low interoception? It could make a big difference when it comes to dealing with injuries or illnesses that cause chronic pain. If you have questions about how your interoception levels affect your pain tolerance and what you can do about it, please visit our website and schedule a time to talk to one of our pain experts.