How Chronic Pain Affects Your Mental State (and What You Can Do About It)

At one point or another, everyone experiences pain in their lifetime. Whether it’s physical and/or emotional, it can be caused by injury, illness, or upsetting events such as divorce. However, while pain can be good in some cases as it can instruct our brain to stop doing the activity that is causing us harm, it is not supposed to last for a long time. Pain that most people experience – acute pain – usually lasts from three to six months. Everything that lasts longer is called chronic pain and it can have detrimental effects on a person’s wellbeing. So, how does this happen and can it be treated?

How does chronic pain affect our mental state?

Experiencing pain on a daily basis is stressful, both emotionally and physically. Seeing as how chronic stress can affect the levels of stress hormones as well as neurochemicals in the brain and nervous system, this can influence someone’s mood and behavior and lead to various mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. These conditions can easily start interfering with one’s everyday life, resulting in sleep disturbances, decreased appetite, trouble concentrating, avoiding social activities and hobbies, and so on. All of this lowers a person’s quality of life, which further affects their psychological state.

The most common conditions and how they can be treated

pain

Unfortunately, there are many physical conditions that can lead to chronic pain. However, there are also some ways that help people cope with them and alleviate the pain they are feeling.

Back and neck pain

Back and neck pain can occur due to an uncomfortable sleeping position, muscle strain from moving suddenly, and stress, among other things. However, this can be a mild ache that passes after a while. On the other hand, if the pain persists, one might be looking at chronic back and neck pain. If an individual experiences numbness, tingling, radiating pain, or weakness in their limbs, they should get it checked out because these symptoms could indicate an issue with a nerve root or the spinal cord. Moreover, neurological problems that affect walking, balance, coordination, and bowel control are also worrisome symptoms. Even though it is not common, back and neck pain can be a sign of other conditions, such as heart attacks, cancer, or meningitis.

Various studies have shown that people with back pain are much more likely to experience stress, anxiety, depression, psychosis, and sleep deprivation. However, there are various ways to treat both the emotional and physical pain. For example, for some more severe cases, surgery is an option. For mild to moderate intensity, people engage in a supervised exercise program or look for specialists that provide physiotherapy sessions, like Vitalis Physiotherapy. Other approaches that have helped individuals include keeping a journal of their pain, behavioral therapy, and relaxation techniques like deep breathing.

back neck pain

Migraines

Chronic migraines are those that last for more than 15 days per month for over three months. This severe pain can easily incapacitate people, especially if combined with other symptoms like nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, or numbness in the face or extremities. The exact cause of chronic migraines is not completely clear, as some suggest it could be a dysfunction in the trigeminal nerve, others think that changing levels of serotonin play a role, while there are also personal things like diet and stress that can trigger a migraine as well.

As migraines affect our ability to do certain things, it’s easy to feel anxious and depressed. People manage symptoms by using over-the-counter and prescription meds and relying on coping strategies like exercising and maintaining a healthy diet. Consulting with a physician before taking medication is always recommended.

Arthritis

There are over 100 different types of arthritis, all of which can cause disabling pain. Seeing as how this inflammation affects the joints and connective tissue of the body, moving can be very difficult and thus a person’s ability to handle everyday activities is reduced. What is more, it also leads to isolation as the person often can’t participate in social events.

Isolation leads to loneliness and the development of depression. The rates of mood and anxiety disorders are also high among people suffering from arthritis. Physical activity such as stretching and low-impact exercises as well as creams and oral medication can all help manage the pain. Acupuncture, massages, and relaxation therapy are also methods people turn to when dealing with arthritis pain.

pain

Multiple sclerosis

MS is a disease that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This damage results in various signs and symptoms that range from physical to mental and sometimes even psychiatric problems. Blindness in one eye, double vision, problems with coordination and sensation, and muscle weakness can all appear in people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Research shows that people with MS are twice as likely to experience depression than people without it. Furthermore, generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and OCD are also common as well as the pseudobulbar affect. Besides finding the right doctor and avoiding triggers, alternative approaches such as biofeedback, meditation, yoga, and guided imagery are also used to relieve pain and stress.

If your life has been affected by chronic pain, don’t lose hope. There are methods that can help you alleviate the pain and improve your mental health.