Chronic pain is an overwhelming disease that can take a major toll on all the aspects of your life including socializing, professional life, and more. Unfortunately, the most apparent symptoms of this condition such as fatigue, extreme pain, and declining functionality show only the physical problems. And this is how most of the relevant mental health issues are often ignored.
The following are the most common mental health problems that stem from long-term chronic pain:
- Sleep disorders or insomnia
Such psychological health components not only affect your everyday life but also aggravate chronic pain symptoms. For this reason, it is essential to undergo a comprehensive treatment program that offers relief for both physical and mental health symptoms.
In this blog, our health care experts will discuss how chronic pain and mental health are connected and how patients can use effective treatment options to get much-needed relief.
Common Mental Health Conditions Related To Chronic Pain
In most cases, chronic pain patients are so much into the physical aches, that they unintentionally overlook the impact of chronic pain on their psychology. What they do not realize is this can turn out to be a big mistake in the long run. It only worsens your current pain and makes it even more challenging to deal with.
We have already discussed the common mental health conditions that may arise due to chronic pain. We will now see that in a bit of detail and how we can cope up with them.
While in pain, you tend to worry a lot. Your mind is mostly occupied with things like paying your bills, seeing a doctor, your constant pain, your job, etc.
Nights are even harder with chronic pain. You barely fall asleep due to the pain and start obsessing over imaginary things. You often overthink about what-if scenarios and become paranoid, thinking if the pain will ever stop or all this is happening because of some other serious disease.
With time, patients become unsure about their own thought process, wondering if they are overreacting to this or this pain is just in their mind. All such things lead to anxiety and even worse, panic attacks.
Chronic pain keeps you up at nights, it neither lets you work nor socialize with people – of course, you will feel low in such conditions. However, this just does not stop here for some people. They develop depression over time and experience continuous feelings of sadness, feelings of helplessness, difficulty to focus, lack of interest, lost self-worth, sleep disorders, appetite loss, and more. Ultimately, they get trapped in this negative thought cycle and isolate themselves from their loved ones.
Persistent pain can trigger depression even in the fittest person. Other symptoms such as insomnia wreak havoc on your social life as it makes you nap frequently all day long. Eventually, you do not get much time to socialize with others. It reduces your interest even in those things or activities you liked the most before. Sadly, depression is highly common with chronic pain patients.
Feeling guilt is not a disease but it has the power to make you vulnerable. Chronic pain leads to several inabilities in patients. They cannot work for more than a couple of hours straight, cannot play with their kids much, or can’t even enjoy a movie just laying on the bed.
These everyday scenarios develop a feeling of guilt over time. Patients sometimes feel angry at themselves for not being able to hang out with friends, attend social events, play any game, and more.
No matter how your physical condition is, quality sleep is necessary for you to function properly. By quality sleep, we mean around seven to nine hours of sleep every day for adults. Otherwise, you may feel drowsy and dull the whole day.
With chronic pain, such type of quality sleep is a distant dream in most cases. It can arise due to severe pain you experience. Sleeplessness is also one of the major side effects of the medications you take to deal with chronic pain. Insomnia impacts all the major aspects of your life including relationships, digestion, focus, physique, memory, and more. What’s worse, it establishes a foundation for even dangerous mental health conditions like anxiety, stress, and depression.
Many mistake fatigue with normal tiredness. In reality, it is not! If you are feeling tired, you can take a nap, and boom…that uncomfortable feeling is gone! But with fatigue, just resting does not help. In fact, it may worsen the problem. Chronic pain patients have to deal with their unending pain most of the time and still have to act like being normal. This process exhausts their brain and leads to fatigue. Do not ignore this feeling as it can worsen your chronic pain.
Fatigue in arthritis patients can be a result of physical activities. In this case, the body tries to combat inflammation by releasing certain chemicals in the brain. The continuous release of chemicals leads to fatigue over time.
Problems With Stress Response
We feel pain as it is the signal our body uses to alert the brain. Pain tells the brain to get ready to fight. Responding to that, the brain undergoes specific physical and chemical changes. It leads to changes in the body as well – like blood flow prioritization, increased heart rate, and more. With time, our body and brain fix the problem and get back to normal once such waves of temporary pain go away. However, this does not happen in the case of chronic pain.
Chronic pain is persistent – meaning, it delays the systematic changes in the brain. Ultimately, it leads to some serious psychological changes. If continued, it affects the functionality of the brain and results in behavioural changes.
This phenomenon is not just related to psychological changes. Delayed stress response, coupled with persistent pain, can result in gastrointestinal problems, heart issues, and more.
Decreased Pain Tolerance
Pain activates the complex systems in the brain. If the pain is persistent, this process occurs almost all the time which results in decreased pain tolerance. It also increases the brain’s pain awareness capacity.
How To Get Relief From The Effects Of Chronic Pain On Mental Health?
Although it is a bitter truth, mental health and chronic pain issues are prevalent in the United States. Thankfully, the medical facilities are working hard to develop a wider understanding of such conditions. As a result, you are now more likely to undergo a comprehensive treatment to effectively treat such intertwined medical issues.
With such integrated treatment programs, chronic pain patients can get the desired relief from both mental and physical illnesses. You can consider the following options for your struggle with chronic pain and mental health issues.
Chronic pain sufferers can experience a lot of improvement in mental health and pain conditions by regularly engaging in exercise. When you work out, it leads to the natural release of pain relievers, endorphins, and mood enhancers in the body. You do not need an intense workout to produce such effects. Even mild to moderate level exercises are fruitful.
Evident Based Treatments
Due to being neuroplastic, the brain can undergo a lot of changes. In a way, this can be beneficial for chronic pain patients who have experienced severe chemical changes in the brain.
These therapeutic treatments target specific brain structures. You may need a combination of multiple therapeutic therapies as chronic pain can affect one or more structures in the brain.
Some of the most common examples of such treatments are mindfulness training, yoga, sleep routine & hygiene, goal-setting, and other behavioral therapies. Most healthcare facilities understand the importance of such therapies and they perform them on patients in combination with physical therapies.
Visit A Reputable Pain Doctor
Even though chronic pain is a common medical condition, not all doctors and physicians can treat it as effectively as specialists. Pain experts, on the other hand, understand all the aspects of this medical condition and believe in a holistic approach. They are more likely to focus on treating your mental health issues by integrating advanced and effective therapies.
Antidepressants (especially tricyclics such as Pamelor and Elavil) have shown positive results for many chronic pain sufferers. Patients experience relief from them which ultimately prevents stress, anxiety, and depression. All in all, these medications can be a great option to fight chronic pain and related mental health conditions.
Change In Lifestyle
Chronic pain often triggers stress. If you experience this feeling, try to get rid of that in any way possible. Do whatever makes you happy to keep your mind engaged. Failing to eliminate the root of the stress can worsen the pain and other symptoms. You can try counseling to understand more ways to deal with stress.
You Can Defeat Chronic Pain
If you are suffering from chronic pain and its psychological effects, it may make you feel that there is no way out. And no, you are not going mad at all. Experiencing negativity, depression, stress, changed perceptions is strongly related to your chronic pain. Your altered thought process is the result of chemical changes in your body and brain.
Moreover, this illness causes severe changes in the brain’s physiology and chemical balancing. As a result, you undergo extreme changes in your personal, social and professional life.
Luckily, several proven treatments can be availed to get rid of this persistent pain. Most of them need proper guidance and assistance from a reputed health care professional. You first have to get in touch with your local physician who can refer you to such pain experts.
Not all such treatment plans deliver immediate results. Your progress is continuously monitored first and defending on the outcomes, your pain doctor decides which treatment plan to maintain.