05 Nov Psychological Responses To Pain
Chronic pain, like every other significant human experience, includes a psychological response, which varies from patient to patient. People in pain have increased the risk for depression, chronic fatigue, anxiety and stress, restlessness, moodiness, and insomnia. Chronic pain can close down a person’s willingness to take risks, creating, in effect, a chronic and very understandable sense of paranoia. Understandably, people who are already in pain, worry about being hurt even more.
It has been suggested that chronic pain can be viewed as a medical disorder regardless of where the pain originates. In that sense, is it a psychological disorder or a neurological one? Sometimes, of course, the symptoms overlap.
Chronic pain has many psychological implications. Among the most commonly listed manifestations of chronic pain are depression, loss of concentration, insomnia and listlessness or fatigue. Let’s look at a few of these one by one.
Depression is a common symptom of chronic pain and certainly one that is not hard to understand. Beyond the pain itself, chronic pain also represents one or more losses in someone’s life. You might lose the ability to participate in various activities. You might lose some social activities you previously enjoyed.
When people suffer losses, it is expected that they should grieve. But people don’t often want to give into their grief, especially when they don’t understand it. People in pain also feel they have to be stoic to some degree, which means ignoring the losses rather than show weakness. This can make depression worse.
Don’t assume because you know the depression is linked to pain that therapy cannot be helpful. You might benefit from having a safe environment in which you can process your losses and learn how to move on. Consulting with a doctor about anti-depressants could also be helpful.
Anger is another very understandable reaction to chronic pain. People commonly ask why did this happen to them? Why were they singled out for a condition that causes them pain and a loss of enjoyment in various activities?
With the anger comes the potential for guilt. Loved ones reach out to help, but the anger over boils and some people in pain take their frustration out on the very people who are trying to help. This leads to a back and forth pattern of anger and guilt playing off of each other.
While therapy remains an option to help people going through this cycle, relaxation, stress management, anger management, and even spiritual guidance can help break the anger-guilt cycle.
Loss of Concentration
There is no question about it: Pain is a major distraction. It can create difficulties reading, watching television or holding a conversation. With the various difficulties, people often choose to withdraw from activities they enjoy. This contributes to a feeling of anger and depression.
The distraction of chronic pain can also interfere with memory and recall. While it takes little time for your brain to recall various items, the pain can still get in the way.
It might help to seek out various new methods of recalling important items, like phone numbers, household finances and whether or not you took your medication. Certainly, smartphones have various applications that can cover a lot of bases with regards to memory. For medications, it is wise to use a weekly container box, available at pharmacies, to help keep track of what medications you took each day.
Ironically, chronic pain can result in chronic fatigue and in difficulty sleeping. The fatigue comes from the extra emotional, mental, psychological burden that comes with dealing with pain.
Insomnia is also a common psychological problem that afflicts people in pain. There are two reasons for this. It is hard, obviously, for the brain to relax when you are in pain. But sleep is also a very habit-oriented activity. People often fall asleep in the same position every night – their arms and legs held in the same position, their heads tilted the same way. Pain can often disrupt a person’s sleep habits, making it difficult to fall asleep.
You may have to learn a new fall-asleep routine, a new posture, and new habits. Besides sleep medications, try to develop a new routine. Try taking a warm bath before going to bed every night, enjoying a cup of warm decaffeinated tea, soothing music or a relaxation or meditation recording. These can help you relax, while you try to develop new sleep habits. Remember to do these things the same way and at the same time each night. The more regular the habits, the easier it will be for your mind to develop the habit of falling asleep.