Taking Care of Your Mental Health When Dealing with Chronic Pain

Taking Care of Your Mental Health When Dealing with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain takes as much of a toll on the mind as it does on the body. Studies have shown that when one’s physical abilities are limited, it can cause intense psychological distress. In turn, this can worsen the physical pain that caused that distress. In fact, individuals with chronic pain are three times more likely to develop symptoms of depression or anxiety and people with depression are three times as likely to develop chronic pain.

The point is that physical and mental anguish are intrinsically linked, which is why the same illness or injury can take varying forms for different people. If you are prone to anxiety and tend to catastrophize, the pain you are experiencing can be far more severe than it would be for someone who tends to have a more relaxed frame of mind. For those whose anxiety is triggered by the loss of control, the stress of one’s pain can take over all aspects of life.

It is therefore unsurprising that between 30 to 50% of individuals with chronic pain also suffer from mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. The link is so pronounced that physical pain can even cause changes in brain chemistry, leading to mental health conditions that may not have existed previously. That can have a profound impact on your everyday quality of life, leading to symptoms like lower energy, a lack of concentration, and a loss of interest in social activities, as well as changes in appetite and sleep patterns.  

That’s why it’s so important to treat both physical and mental symptoms when dealing with chronic pain. With regards to the former, you’ll need to consult with a doctor to determine the right course of action. If you’re suffering from back pain specifically, it may be helpful to work with a physical therapist to strengthen your core. Holistic techniques like massage and acupuncture have also been shown to reduce pain.

There are similarly a number of different ways to treat depression and anxiety, including talk therapy, medication, and peer support groups. Developing stress reduction skills can also be incredibly useful, and can help break the negative feedback loop that turns chronic pain and mental illness into a self-perpetuating cycle.

Regardless of the approach you choose, the goal is to find ways to manage both the pain and mental anxiety. That will allow you to take more control over your own life, so you can feel more like yourself and get back to the activities you used to enjoy without feeling constrained by physical and mental illness.

Like chronic pain, there is no surefire way to cure mental illness. It is always an ongoing process, and usually requires a complete support network of peers and professionals. Just remember that it’s still possible to thrive and that there’s no need to let your anxiety hold you back!

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