This study investigated the tolerance for physical pain in suicidal subjects. Suicidal, psychiatric nonsuicidal, and normal young males and females were administered pain measures including electric shocks, appraisal of shocks, and a measure of thermal pain. Additional study variables included diagnosis, past suicide attempts, severity of suicidal intent, and length of hospitalization. Suicidal individuals showed higher tolerance for pain and appraised the pain as less intense than the other groups, regardless of diagnosis, length of hospitalization, and motivation to participate in the study. These findings were explained as a result of dissociative processes inherent in the development of suicidal tendencies and in terms of pain management strategies.
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The authors would like to express their appreciation to Michael A. Hoffman, Shlomo Yehuda, and Matisyohu Weisenberg for their assistance and helpful comments. This study was supported by a grant from the Israel Foundations Trustees (# AG45/90) and the Schnitzer Foundation of Bar-Ilan University.