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  • Writer's pictureMonica Pandey

Psychological Impact of Pain

Pain is one of the most common reasons why people go to doctors. If there is anything that a person can manage alone, a consultation may not be considered. However, the moment a person is unable to manage pain, the person seeks a doctor. Oftentimes many symptoms are ignored, but pain is such an experience that people find it hard to ignore, and thus seek a doctor. In the case of chronic pain, a person has to live with pain for years, sometimes decades. The aim of this article is to create awareness about the impact pain can have on the psychology of a person.

Pain causes many changes in a person’s life. It affects performance at work. The focus shifts to the pain and thus there is an impact on the productivity levels. Chronic pain impacts family life and personal relationships. It causes extra burden on family members as they may have to take additional responsibilities. The supporting spouse may have to both work as well as shoulder child care responsibilities, thus affecting roles in the family. It can lead to resentment in the family and guilt on part of the patient. Social connections get limited as the pain is unpredictable and patients feel confined and restricted. Chronic pain can cause an identity crisis. Thus, all in all, it can be a highly debilitating experience as it impacts the entire way of life.

Living with pain can be highly challenging. Waking up with pain or finding sleep challenging due to it is a very common experience. The struggle is real. The struggle is on a daily basis. It takes time to come to terms with it, especially if it is chronic. Acceptance takes a long time. Then too, there may be frequent questions such as, “Why me?” “When will this end?” “Will it ever end?” “Will I ever be able to enjoy my life as before?” “Will I be able to socialize as before?” “Will I be able to work as before?” Sometimes, thoughts related to finances, if the patient has been the chief financial strength of the family then stress about the altered productivity and resulting impact on finances, if the patient is a family member then thoughts about whether the family can afford the treatment. So many thoughts and so many questions! Will it then come as a surprise that pain patients are often also patients of depression and anxiety? There can also be other psychological effects such as insomnia, fatigue, anger, guilt and so on.

In July 2007 a study was published in the journal Psychology and Health titled, “Pain as an assault on the self: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the psychological impact of chronic benign low back pain” by Jonathan A. Smith & Mike Osborn. This study studied in-depth how even benign pain had the potential to damage an individual’s sense of self and identity. The study concluded that chronic pain assaulted and undermined the patients’ sense of self. The study also concluded that the struggle to maintain a valued or coherent self was, at times, more unpleasant than enduring the physical sensation of pain.

Well, it is a well-established fact, as can be seen from the previous articles shared, that pain and emotions travel along similar pathways. So yet another fact is that pain can lead to increased negative emotions and thus increase the psychological impact. In short, chronic pain can greatly affect the psychology of a person as it in itself, it causes many changes in life and, due to similar pathways it can cause emotional experience to be heightened.

While time may teach how to live with pain, developing the right attitude will make the process faster and easier. This is where seeking professional help in the form of a psychotherapist or a pain coach will be highly beneficial.

So, while you reflect upon this article and decide when to book a therapy session, here are some quick tips for you to start practicing.

  1. Modify a hobby – While you may not be able to life exactly the same way as before, hold on to your hobbies and continue to take them up in reduced intensity as before, but do not give them up altogether.

  2. Join a support group – As you experience reduced social contact, it is a good idea to connect with people who sail in the same boat, so seek support groups and group therapy.

  3. Get a massage – Hire a masseur who can visit often and help you reduce the pain sensation.

  4. Find distractions – Constantly focusing on the pain will only make it worse, so find easily doable activities to keep you distracted and occupied.

  5. Count your blessings – While your situation will be challenging no doubt, shift the focus to the good things in your life so that you feel blessed in other areas at least. Remember, life isn’t meant to be easy and nobody at all has it all!

Try these easy tips. While these will help you greatly, do consider therapy! Remember, professional help will enable you to ace with the right attitude and master pain, so REACH OUT!

I leave you with that thought and welcome your comments on the same.


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