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.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A related disease en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibromyalgia is not fatal. $\endgroup$
    – Memming
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 21:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 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/… $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ @fileunderwater - Cause of death would be complications of shock, not pain. Can pain cause shock? absolutely. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, f pain makes an organism not want to live, then I would consider it fatal. You can link it to satiety or whatever, diabetes put the body is a state outside of homeostasis. So does pain $\endgroup$
    – rhill45
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 6:41

3 Answers 3


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 breathe 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!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ One could imagine sending signals through the nociception system to cause pain perception without any actual physical danger to the body. $\endgroup$
    – Memming
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ 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 $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ 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! $\endgroup$
    – Cuana
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ Totally wrong answer, -1 $\endgroup$
    – Anixx
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ "feeling no pain" because they're in shock. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 20:34

The evolutionary functional answer here is probably not right. 'Expecting biology to behave a certain way is not a safe bet!'

Its a common misconception that all living things are designed to endure regardless of cost. You can die from pain. One can definitely die from fear.

This report tries to make a case though the diagnosis is not causal: Sudden, Unexpected Death in Chronic Pain Patients pretty much says it all. "Unexpected, sudden death due to severe pain is poorly appreciated, since many observers still view severe pain as a harmless nuisance rather than a potential physiologic calamity."

It goes to further note the physiological stress of constant pain: "Severe pain is a horrific stress. Severe pain flares, acute or chronic, cause the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to produce glucocorticoids (cortisol, pregnenolone) and catecholamines (adrenalin and noradrenalin) in an effort to biologically contain the stress. Catecholamines have a direct, potent stimulation effect on the cardiovascular system and severe tachycardia and hypertension result Pulse rates may commonly rise to more than 100 beats per minute and even rise to more than 130 beats per minute. Blood pressure may reach more than 200 mmHg systolic and more than 120 mmHg diastolic."

Just to further the discussion of our evolved defiance of death. I've long heard that rabbits can die from fright. They don't put up much of a fight. This is a typical experience with rabbit owners:

Rabbits Can Die of Fright! It is possible for a rabbit to die of fright. Loud sounds, such as cats, dogs, loud music, or screaming can lead to a heart attack and put a rabbit into shock, causing sudden death. It can take several days for the rabbit to die this way, and it does not happen often, but it is quite possible.

And yes, People can die from fear too.


I refer the honorable gentlemen to James Harriet. He reports discovering by accident by ending the pain he was in some cases able to reverse the pathology by ending the pain with anesthetic drugs, thus allowing the body's natural healing abilities to take over.

He first discovered it in a sheep by accident (insufficient dose to put it down) and later used it effectively on dogs.


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