Measuring psychological pain

Psychological pain describes the personal agony and suffering felt by an individual. A recent study suggests that the OMMP-8 could be a more feasible tool compared to the commonly used scale the 44-item OMMP to measure psychological pain.

Suicide and psychological pain

Suicide is a public health concern, with an estimated one million individuals dying by suicide each year worldwide. In the United States, suicide rates have increased over the past 20 years: suicide is the tenth overall cause of death and the second, fourth, and eighth leading cause of death for individuals 10-34, 34-44, and 55-64 years of age, respectively.

Although several theories behind the meaning and motivation of suicide have been proposed, personal agony (e.g., “I cannot stand the pain any longer”) is a contributing factor. Psychological pain, defined as a “lasting, unsustainable and unpleasant feeling resulting from negative appraisal of an inability or deficiency of the self,” is a term used to describe the personal agony and suffering felt by an individual.

Understanding psychological pain

Understanding and assessing individual psychological pain may be beneficial. However, researchers and clinicians are faced with limited options when selecting an instrument (e.g., survey, scale, questionnaire) that adequately and accurately measures psychological pain. Our study assessed the Orbach and Mikulincer Mental Pain (OMMP) scale, a 44-item scale designed to measure psychological pain (cf Orbach et al. and Guimarães et al.). We assessed scale validity and ability to compare scores across groups of interest (e.g., sex, age, physical activity status, clinical diagnosis).

Psychological pain and age

In our study, we found that the 44-item OMMP scale did not meet necessary criteria to be recommended for use in research or clinical practice in its current form. Our subsequent testing of the OMMP revealed a condensed version (i.e., the OMMP-8) that may be a more viable option for research and clinical practice. Our results indicate that the OMMP-8 can be administered in different groups (e.g., age, sex, physical activity status) to effectively compare scores of psychological pain between groups.

We also found that individuals aged 65 years and older reported lower levels of psychological pain compared to younger individuals; and individuals engaging in less physical activity tended to report higher levels of psychological pain compared to those reporting higher amounts of physical activity. Thus, physical activity and life experience may have an impact on psychosocial health outcomes, including psychological pain.

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Mental health and psychological pain

Last, we found that individuals with a current or past mental health diagnosis reported higher scores on the OMMP-8 scale, meaning they reported experiencing more psychological pain than those individuals without a mental health diagnosis. Our results are too preliminary to recommend using the OMMP-8 scores for diagnostic purposes, however, we believe they provide insight into psychological pain and individual well-being, which could inform patient care.

OMMP-8 may be a more viable option than the 44-item OMMP

In conclusion, it is important for researchers and clinicians to select instruments that have established psychometric properties, indicating a scale can accurately measure the construct of interest. Our findings indicated the 44-item OMMP did not meet recommended criteria necessary to recommend its use in research and clinical practice. Our initial psychometric analysis indicates the OMMP-8 is a more viable option to use to measure psychological pain; however, further research is warranted to fully assess the measurement properties of the scale and its application to clinical practice.


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