"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." —Buddhist Proverb
Feb. 1, 2023
Thanks to Saint Valentine, Feb. will always be associated with love. Love, widely recognized as a feeling of great happiness, is also associated with the most intense pain. Making Feb. a celebration of a wide range of emotions. Poets and authors throughout time have tried to describe these emotions without success. To truly understand them, they must be experienced. Physical pain is much the same. It is translated differently through each person’s experience. Two people can experience the same sensation and perceive it differently. For a long time, it was generally accepted that individuals with autism felt less pain than neurotypical individuals because of their inability to report pain successfully. However, recent research out of Israel has proven that individuals with autism actually feel more, not less, pain than neurotypical individuals. “Hypersensitivity to experimental pain was attributed to greater autism severity and sensory hypersensitivity to daily stimuli.” (Hoffman, Tseelaa; Bar-Shalita, Tamib,c; Granovsky, Yelenad,e; Gal, Eynatf; Kalingel-Levi, Merryf; Dori, Yaela; Buxbaum, Chend; Yarovinsky, Natalyag; Weissman-Fogel, Irita,*. Indifference or hypersensitivity? Solving the riddle of the pain profile in individuals with autism. PAIN ():10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002767, August 26, 2022. | DOI: 0.1097/j.pain.0000000000002767) Caregivers and medical professionals should be aware of this reality when providing services to this population. Perhaps the true celebration of Feb. 14 is the awareness that we all experience love and pain differently regardless of our other abilities. Sometimes those we think can’t feel anything are actually the one’s feeling the most and not being able to communicate pain effectively is not the same as not being able to feel it intensely. It is the caregivers who have the patience and understanding to be compassionate to those around them that become heroes. They do not wait for science to tell them what they already know that other’s feelings and perceptions matter even if they seem unusual.