Dealing With Emotional Impact Of Living With Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain is more than just taking pain pills and living with the pain. Chronic pain has multiple emotional symptoms associated with the pain that also needs attending to.

There is a lot of interplay between chronic pain and emotion and living with chronic pain often results in depression, worry, stress, and anxiety making it that much harder to deal with.

Doctors who only focus on the pain and not on the emotional and mental components of the condition and its effects on the sufferer’s life miss addressing important symptoms that can affect the overall effectiveness of treatment.

This is why a holistic approach is best for chronic pain management. 

A holistic practitioner can better help you deal with your chronic pain than can, say, a doctor who just gives you pills for the pain and doesn’t deal with the myriad of emotions that go along with dealing with pain issues that do not go away.

Emotional Symptoms Associated With Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is associated with a variety of emotional symptoms. Some occur as part of having to deal with the daily issues of chronic pain and others that go along with the chronic pain syndrome itself. Some emotional symptoms you might experience include:

  • Depression. Depression is a common phenomenon in those dealing with chronic pain and is a part of chronic pain syndromes like irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia. Because depression is such a big part of chronic pain, doctors often prescribe antidepressants as part of therapy for these types of syndromes. Many of the older antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants, are used because they do dual duty—managing the pain as well as the depressive symptoms. Even some of the newer SSRI antidepressants can be used in chronic pain syndromes but they act more on the depression and less on the pain issues.
  • Anxiety. Many people with chronic pain syndrome also experience a great deal of anxiety. Whether the anxiety is biologically related to having pain or just a psychological response to having to deal with the unexpectedness of the pain issues is unclear. Nevertheless, benzodiazepines are used in the treatment of chronic pain syndromes of all types. Benzodiazepines act on the anxiety centers of the brain, altering the biochemistry of the brain so that the patient is less anxious and can deal with their pain better. 

Management of Emotional Symptoms

The emotional symptoms of chronic pain must be dealt with along with the physical symptoms or the pain will likely not be effectively managed. Some common ways holistic doctors help the patient deal with the chronic pain in chronic pain syndromes include the following:

  • Antidepressant medications. As mentioned, both the newer and older types of antidepressant medications are used to deal with the depressive symptoms of chronic pain syndromes. The older tricyclic medications tend to help with pain better than the newer SSRI antidepressants but both are effective in controlling depression. The older antidepressants have more side effects than the newer antidepressants.
  • Anxiolytic medications. Non-addictive kinds of medications, such as buspirone, can be used to manage anxiety associated with chronic pain. Benzodiazepines are also commonly used, including Klonopin, Ativan, Valium, and Xanax. These can be addictive but are helpful when the anxiety interferes with daily activities and with sleep.
  • Daily exercise. Daily aerobic exercise has been known to reduce pain and improve mood in patients with chronic pain syndrome. The exercise does not have to be extensive and soothing types of exercise like yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are often used because they reduce stress, lessen pain, and improve the mood of those who practice those types of exercises. 
  • Stress reduction. Stress is associated with an exacerbation of both the pain and the emotional symptoms affiliated with chronic pain syndrome. People with chronic pain syndrome need to reduce the level of stress in their life as well as practice stress-relieving techniques like meditation and prayer. Mediation is especially helpful in dealing with the stress associated with chronic pain. It involves focusing on muscle relaxation and breathing techniques that cause a reduction in the perception of stress and secondarily manage the pain.

Lifestyle changes. Things like eating better, exercising, and maintaining healthy relationships can do a lot to reduce the emotional symptoms associated with chronic pain. Living a healthy lifestyle can improve the perception of pain and can help the chronic pain syndrome sufferer better take care of their pain in a holistic way.

This is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition,. If you have questions, please contact your medical physician.