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Pain is a natural and expected part of life. We will all experience pain at some point or another, as our body gets scratches, bruises, aches, pains, along with issues related to health and aging.

Pain, defined as a physical discomfort caused by an event, injury, or illness, normally serves a protective purpose. It is a signal that you should stop doing whatever is currently resulting in that pain and prevent any further harm to your mind or body. That is what pain is meant to communicate.

However, when pain persists over an extended period of time, it may be what’s known as “Chronic Pain.” Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than 6 months. Sometimes, that pain is constant, other times it comes and goes, but the pain is persistent in its location(s) and causes. While chronic pain may also be a signal something is wrong, it may also be an issue that cannot be easily addressed – for example, an internal issue related to aging or injury that doctors may or may not be able to treat.

Chronic pain can require consistent medical attention, and while it can continue to cause physical harm, it can also contribute to a significant amount of mental harm as well.

Can Chronic Pain Affect My Mental Health?

All pain is difficult. But chronic pain can start to affect our mental health. The persistent inability to stop the pain can lead to challenges that affect our emotions, our ability to cope with other stresses, and more. The link between chronic pain and mental health is a well-studied one, and there is a lot that we can learn about how chronic pain affects our mental health over time:

  • Depression and Anxiety – Besides chronic pain creating a constant uncomfortable state, it can also cause a considerable amount of undue stress. This stress can significantly impact your mood, and result in abnormal chemical reactions if that pain is not managed. These hormones and neurochemicals can bring about onset anxiety symptoms or lead to eventual bouts with depression. This can make it that much harder to live with chronic pain in the first place. These sorts of mental health conditions unfortunately can form a cycle with chronic pain, as the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain can reinforce each other over time.
  • Inability to Concentrate on Responsibilities – When it comes to concentration, even a small injury can make it incredibly difficult to focus on one task at a time. When struggling with severe chronic pain, focusing on individual moments can become next to impossible. The effect chronic pain can have on our attention to our responsibilities is also quite severe. Work, family, friends, and other parts of life become that much harder to manage when we are struggling to concentrate on anything other than the pain that we are in. These experiences can then make it more difficult for us to be productive or connected with those around us, which in turn can lead to some of the other mental conditions that we have already discussed.
  • Prone to Pain Relief Addictions – The relationship between chronic pain and addiction is also a cause for concern. When you are in constant pain, relief of any form can become a desired option. Addictive painkillers, such as opioids, can be abused when a person relies on them to address chronic pain.

Because of the relationship between chronic pain and mental health, it is often not enough to treat only a person’s chronic pain. Often, a person needs to address their mental and emotional health as well.

Therapy for Chronic Pain-Related Mental Health Issues

Psychotherapy can be effective at treating your mental health, and can complement any chronic pain treatments that you receive from a doctor. If you feel like you might benefit from therapy to address depression, anxiety, and other conditions related to chronic pain, please contact Flourish Psychology, today.

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