Sure, in the context of Functional Brain Disorders like Migraine, Depression or PTSD, this question sounds fairly stupid. However, for patients experiencing Chronic Pain in their body, the involvement of the brain may be less obvious and so the question seems justified — but is Chronic Pain even real? Or is it mental?
The so-called Medical Model separates patients and their maladies into two categories: Patients with real, physical ailments—like injuries and infectious diseases—are supposed to see a real medical doctor for treatment. In contrast, patients with a mental illness are sent to a psychiatrist. The “mind doctor” then pretends that the mental illness is caused by so-called biochemical imbalances (BS!) in the brain and treats it like a physical condition with medication. Isn’t this completely mental?
As a logical consequence, patients with Functional Brain Disorders, and especially those with Chronic Pain, are put in a position where they have to decide whether their condition is mental or medical. The nasty connotations are:
• mental = not real, fake, imagined, illusionary; symptoms occur due to being mental = crazy;
• medical/physical/biological/organic = real = honest; deserves sympathy and compassion.
It is no wonder that many of them end up being defensive and committed to ongoing medical treatments, thereby draining their financial and emotional resources without any long-lasting benefit, at least not for the patient.
Here is the answer: Whatever humans experience is generated in the brain and by the brain. Whether it is hunger, thirst, love or pain, the source is always—and without exception—the brain. As we know from phantom pain, the brain can give us an experience of a hurting hand even after amputation of the hand. In contrast, a hand cannot give us any experience whatsoever after amputation of the brain.
This example demonstrates that a distinction of “real” symptoms versus “mental” symptoms is completely idiotic. By definition, symptoms are experiences and the product of specific brain activities, sometimes called Neurotags. For example, the picture below shows a typical Pain Neurotag: A group of nerve cells that fire together to give us the real experience of real pain Unreal, isn’t it?
Patients need to understand that the Medical Model benefits the medical industry. It is time for a Patient Model that benefits the patients; a model for real people with brains.