An article this week about Jo Cameron, who has lived 71 years without pain or anxiety because she has a rare genetic mutation, led to questions from New York Times readers.
The notion that the same gene might be responsible The way a person handles physical and mental pain has amazed many: are not they completely different? Or does their story suggest that sensitivity to one type of pain could be linked to a sensitivity to another?
Childbirth, said Mrs. Cameron, felt like a "tickle". She often relies on her husband alerting her to bleeding, being squeezed or burned, because nothing hurts.
"I drive people crazy," she said.
[ReadmoreabouttheFruudie Never been in pain .]
Here's something about what's known:
Live those who live without pain unafraid?
No. Prior to her meeting with Ms. Cameron, the scientists investigating her case were working with other patients who were not in pain.
"Decreased anxiety has not really been noticed in the other pain insensitivity disorders we are working on," Dr. James Cox, a senior lecturer at the Molecular Nociception Group at University College London.
He also said that given that Ms. Cameron had gone more than six decades without realizing how unusual she was, there could be others like her. A number of such individuals contacted the Times after the article was published.
"I also had the children and no pain," wrote Juanita Hoffman, 81, from Dayton, Ohio. "I thought family and friends who complained were just actress queens."
When she was asked about her mental state, she wrote, "No, I've never been scared. I was always satisfied and happy.
How could a genetic mutation eradicate anxiety?
Dr. Cox said he believed that the decreased anxiety of Mrs. Cameron was "due to increased signaling at CB1 receptors" or cannabinoid receptors, of which known is that they help the body cope with stress situations. (In particular, they are activated by the THC in cannabis.)
Block cannabinoid receptors and increase anxiety, increase cannabinoid receptors and decrease anxiety, Studies have shown receptors also affect how people experience physical pain.
Does this mean that physical and mental pain is processed the same way?
No, it's more complicated and much research is needed said Dr. TH Eric Bui from the Center for Anxiety Disorders, Traumatic Stress Disorders and Complicated Mourning Programs on Massachusetts Gene Hospital. What we do know is that "brain regions that handle emotional and physical pain overlap."
In another example of how mysterious the two types of pain may be, he notes that acetaminophen (the active ingredient) In Tylenol, among other things, it has been shown to be the emotional pain associated with rejection , reduced.
Is the rejection similar to physical pain?
Naomi Eisenberger, professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles Department believes it. Dr. Eisenberger examines the similarities in the way the brain handles bodily pain and the "social pain" that results from the rejection.
She said she has repeatedly stated that "people who are more sensitive to physical pain are more disturbed by rejection."
Do people with low anxiety seem to experience less pain?
In general, yes, some experts say for pain management.
"When you're scared, your perception of pain worsens," he said, and if two patients have exactly the same kind of injury, the one with more anxiety tends to get a "higher reclamation value."
Why do anxious people seem to have a lower pain threshold?
Debra Kissen, Managing Director of Light on A nxiety, a treatment center in Chicago, believes that some people are just more sensitive – as they seem to feel more intense. However, she has observed how anxiety and physical pain can mutually reinforce one another.
With chronic pain, a person may feel anxious because they have no control over their body. Then her anxiety can focus on the pain and reinforce it. Treat both, and sometimes it helps both, she said.
What fascinates her most about the two types of pain is the consistency of her patients' responses to a decision. "I'll ask someone," You can either hit your toe and watch it hurt, or you'll feel desperate, "she said.
Patients always choose toe.