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Medline ® Abstract for Reference 47

of 'Overview of spirituality in palliative care'

Existential pain--an entity, a provocation, or a challenge?
Strang P, Strang S, Hultborn R, Arnér S
J Pain Symptom Manage. 2004;27(3):241.
"Existential pain" is a widely used but ill-defined concept. Therefore the aim of this study was to let hospital chaplains (n=173), physicians in palliative care (n=115), and pain specialists (n=113) respond to the question: "How would you define the concept existential pain?" A combined qualitative and quantitative content analysis of the answers was conducted. In many cases, existential pain was described as suffering with no clear connection to physical pain. Chaplains stressed significantly more often the guilt issues, as well as various religious questions (P<0.001). Palliative physicians (actually seeing dying persons) stressed more often existential pain as being related to annihilation and impending separation (P<0.01), while pain specialists (seeing chronic patients) more often emphasized that "living is painful" (P<0.01). Thirty-two percent (32%) of the physicians stated that existential suffering can be expressed as physical pain and provided many case histories. Thus, "existential pain" is mostly used as a metaphor for suffering, but also is seen as a clinically important factor that may reinforce existing physical pain or even be the primary cause of pain, in good agreement with the current definition of pain disorder or somatization disorder.
Department of Oncology and Pathology, Karolinska Institutet, SSH, Mariebergsg 22, 112-35 Stockholm, Sweden.