Perception of physical pain in accident and suicide attempt patients: Self-preservation vs self-destruction

Israel Orbach, Daniel Stein, Yair Palgi, Jack Asherov, Dov Har-Even, Avner Elizur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


The perception of physical pain and its relationship to psychological variables were examined in emergency-room (ER) patients who were admitted following suicide attempts or accident injuries, and in a control group of community subjects. Two pain measures, involving electric shocks, were administered to the subjects. Psychological variables included hardiness, body image, body satisfaction feelings about the body, stressful events, anxiety and depression. Suicidal subjects endured the highest number of shocks, scored lowest on the appraisal of pain, and scored lowest on psychological hardiness. Moreover, it was found that, among the suicidal subjects, the more negative the scores of psychological variables, the higher the endurance of pain. In accident victim subjects, the relationships were exactly opposite. These results were interpreted as reflecting two different core attitudes towards life under stressful circumstances: a life-destroying tendency in the suicidal subjects vs. a life-preserving tendency in the accident-victim subjects. These two core attitudes indicate different modes of defense: defensive detachment in the suicidal patients and avoidance of stress in the accident victims.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-320
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996


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