Imagine being in pain all over your body, all day and night, all in your whole life. I, 29, don’t need to imagine it because this is what my life is like. I have been working in top MNC, best schools, best lavish lifestyle all my life but, For most of my life, I have battled constant body pain.
“I am a chronic pain patient, I have pain all over my body since my whole life”
Chronic Pain And Mental Health
At some time in our lives we will all experience pain-physical and/or emotional discomfort caused by illness, injury, or an upsetting event. Though most of us would rather avoid it, pain does serve an actual purpose that is good and seen as “protective.” For example, when you experience pain your brain signals you to stop doing whatever is causing the pain, preventing further harm to your body.
Pain, however, is not meant to last for a long time. Pain that typically lasts less than 3 to 6 months is called acute pain, which is the form of pain most of us experience. For some people, pain can be ongoing or go away and then come back, lasting beyond the usual course of 3 to 6 months and negatively affecting a person’s well-being. This is called chronic pain or persistent pain. Put simply, chronic or persistent pain is pain that continues when it should not.
Chronic pain is often associated with other health conditions such as anxiety and depression, resulting in a low health-related quality of life.
Living with daily pain is physically and emotionally stressful. Chronic stress is known to change the levels of stress hormones and neurochemicals found within your brain and nervous system; these can affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Disrupting your body’s balance of these chemicals can bring on depression in some people.
There are several ways chronic pain associated with these conditions can interfere with your everyday life. It can affect your ability to function at home and work. You may find it difficult to participate in social activities and hobbies, which could lead to decreased self-esteem. It is also common for people with chronic pain to have sleep disturbances, fatigue, trouble concentrating, decreased appetite, and mood changes. These negative changes in your lifestyle can increase your pain and dampen your overall mood; the frustration of dealing with this can result in depression and anxiety.
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Chronic Pain and Anxiety
Anxiety associated with chronic pain is real.
As a stressor, the natural response is to escape or flee the pain. However, with chronic pain, this is often not possible.
Even in times where the pain is not present, chronic pain sufferers may experience anxiety surrounding the return of the pain. This anxiety can be crippling and detrimental to the quality of life.
Chronic Pain and Depression
The link between chronic pain and depression is strong, but it’s not well understood by psychologists.
Some researchers believe this depression as a result of pain may be programmed into our wiring evolutionally. Contextually, it makes sense. Withdrawing from society provides the body with a peaceful environment that is needed to heal. It also creates a “safe place” away from stressors and possible threats.
However, chronic pain makes this difficult because the threat is internal, not external. The result can be chronic, nagging depression that seemingly has no end.
Depression-like symptoms may also evolve as a perception of loss of control. This is called adjustment disorder and results when an individual fails to adapt or cope with a perceived stressor like chronic pain.
However, depression is not necessarily a guaranteed progression in chronic pain. It is impacted by a number of factors, including genetics.
Chronic Pain and Awareness of the Body
Activation of complex brain systems as a result of chronic pain may increase awareness of pain and decrease pain tolerance. Additionally, because pain signals the fight or flight system, heightened sensitivity to other “threat” cues may result.
This makes sense in the context of survival, where consistent perceived “threats” would increase awareness out of protection for self.
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Chronic Pain and Cognition
Cognition is a complex function of the brain that involves acquiring understanding through sensory input, thought, and experience. It also helps to regulate emotion. Cognition is one of the extremely important functions that can be impacted by pain.
Scientific evidence supports the notion that pain negatively affects cognitive ability. While temporary pain doesn’t impact cognition much, persistent pain can cause changes in the brain systems that control cognitive function.
Treatment/Therapies For Chronic Pain And Mental Health
Sometimes diagnosing and treating pain can be a tricky process because pain is a subjective experience and there is no test to measure and locate it precisely. Often times chronic pain is treated with medications that can be taken orally, applied directly to the skin (creams and patches), or through injections. If you are taking opioids (painkillers) or talking with your doctor about this treatment option, make sure to plan for safe use of these medications as they are highly addictive. As always, it is very important to remember to continuously work with your doctor to identify the proper treatment options suitable for you.
Although treating pain and mental health conditions sometimes uses separate therapies for each condition, there are some methods that can help alleviate both at the same time.
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