We’ve all been asked by a doctor to assess our pain on a scale of one to 10. Or maybe choose the face with the expression most closely matching the level of agony you’re in. While this common health question seems like a perfectly reasonable way to evaluate your pain, it might only be scratching the surface of a very complex mind-body connection.

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For example, with new research showing that financial insecurity causes physical pain, there’s potential for someone who’s super stressed about money to be diagnosed or treated differently by a medical professional than someone who’s financially secure.

At the recent Changing Minds festival, which focuses on mental health topics ranging from pain to stigma, a panel of experts discussed varying pain thresholds and why some people wait so long before seeing a doctor when they’re ill. A lack of understanding of these variances and a one-size-fits-all approach by health workers can result in misdiagnosis, incorrect therapy and permanent health damage. These misunderstandings are especially pertinent for women’s health, since doctors have a tendency to dismiss women’s claims of experiencing high pain levels.

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It’s important for everyone, not just health workers, to remember that there are varying factors that affect how intense a friend, family member or coworker’s pain may be, and taking a standard approach to pain assessment can lead to unconsciously questioning whether someone is faking their pain. Since pain is subjective and a result of a massive web of factors like genetics, nervous systems and mental health states, telling a friend what they feel based on your own ideas of what’s normal could be harsh, not to mention unsafe. When it comes to mental health issues specifically, accepting a person’s claims of pain is extremely important to their future well-being.

Have you ever had your pain dismissed by a doctor or a friend? Tweet us about your story @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)