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Is it possible that a human or any other creature can die from pain?

I googled and found different answers. Some articles say Yes while others say No.

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A related disease en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibromyalgia is not fatal. –  Memming Aug 7 '13 at 21:30
    
This is probably very hard to study, since it will be difficult to disentangle pain and the reasons for pain (e.g. injury). However, I can imagine that extreme pain can lead to heart attack and death. In that case the direct cause of death would be heart attack but pain would be the underlying cause (probably along with other underlying risk factors). See e.g. nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/heartattack/… –  fileunderwater Aug 9 '13 at 10:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I very much doubt it. You may however die from whatever's causing the pain. The reason you feel pain is so you stop doing whatever is causing the pain. Hence someone knows not to touch a hot fire because it is painful. But the pain itself is not actually the danger - it's the fire burning away skin. So pain is actually a good thing, a survival mechanism. So for something that is meant to prevent death it's hard to imagine it doing the opposite.

Perhaps if you were in SO much pain you may be unable to breath and paralysed - but even then I still think you'd go unconscious before that would happen, and you'd start breathing again, etc.

The only other thing I can imagine is having a cardiac event, and the heart stopping. Again, this would be because of stress. Other than that - you may commit suicide on account of insufferable pain, however it's a different situation.

However pain never comes on its own for no reason, just like smoke needs a fire. In this case it's the fire - not the smoke, that will kill you!

People who've ever been in a desperate or life threatening situation like a car accident, have often walked on a broken leg for example - feeling no pain. In this case the body was giving them a chance to escape what might have been a lion, etc.

In short, no - I don't think you can. However I cannot give a 100% correct answer. It would take just one example to prove that however!

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One could imagine sending signals through the nociception system to cause pain perception without any actual physical danger to the body. –  Memming Aug 7 '13 at 21:27
    
great answer! though the fire/smoke analogy is not so apt: "50–80% of fire deaths are the result of smoke inhalation injuries" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_inhalation –  Michael Kuhn Aug 8 '13 at 7:40
    
Yeah, that's what I was saying - "in this case it's the fire that kills you". So it's essentially a reverse analogy, retrospectively I realise it was confusing! –  Cuana Aug 9 '13 at 0:22

Yes it can. Usually this is through an increased rate of suicide or the inability to look after yourself due to the level of pain you are in. It is so common that there are so many medical departments that have the sole job of pain management.

Pain itself is not designed to kill you (in fact the very opposite as highlighted excellently by Cuana), but as everything else, it should be in moderation. Without pain we would die way more frequently, but with too much of it we will also die more frequently.

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