Chronic pain – pain that lasts longer than 90 days after a normal recovery period for an injury or illness – affects thousands of people. Chronic pain impacts you mentally, emotionally as well as physically. It also affects the people in your life at home, at work and at play. Family, friends, peers and colleagues may all experience an impact when you are suffering from chronic pain.
Chronic pain may result from a specific condition or injury. Or, it may present itself over time with no apparent source, slowly infiltrating your life. The pain may be constant or intermittent, dull and aching or sharp and piercing. It may be localized to a specific part of your body or it may spread throughout a region or even your entire body. Treating chronic pain with the usual pain relieving treatments (medication, massage, rest, relaxation) is generally unsuccessful since it is your pain management system that is having a problem.
One of the challenges of ongoing pain is that it puts your body under additional stress. Your physical systems are strained from the pain and so are your emotional and mental capacities. This emotional stress reveals itself in a variety of ways. If you aren’t getting sufficient sleep or rest because of the pain, you may find yourself with less tolerance for actions or comments by others or yourself. You respond with frustration, anger or possibly violence.
When you are uncertain of the source of pain or its intensity and duration, you may experience feelings of tension, worry, fear and anxiety. You may lose confidence in yourself if there are feelings of lack of control over your physical self. Decreased confidence often leads to under performance at work and at home. You may want to withdraw from social events and interactions. This creates feelings of isolation and often increases loss of self-confidence.
Chronic pain can be a vicious circle. Just as you are reaching out for support for the physical impacts of your chronic pain, it is equally important to get the support you need to manage the emotional and mental health impacts for yourself and your family. Speak with your general practitioner about seeing a psychologist with experience in chronic pain or contact the Centre for Human Potential to discuss which psychologist is best suited for you.