Pain typically serves to warn us to stop a particular activity and take care of that particular body part. However, when that pain becomes chronic, lasting months or even years, it goes beyond a warning – it becomes a hindrance to regular daily life.
Chronic pain can occur without any detectable injury of sign of damage to the body. It can be caused by headaches, pain in the back, and arthritis. Regretfully, there is little evidence and few scientific discoveries to explain this pain. Until recently, many medical professionals explained away these types of symptoms as being all in a person’s head. Today, we know very well this pain is not imaginary and is quite real, no matter how difficult it proves to diagnose.
The psychological impact of these chronic pain issues can often amplify the effect they have on people’s lives. In can inhibit lives, both socially and physically. It can prevent one in engaging in family events, performing regular everyday chores, and can even prevent a person from enjoying their favorite activities. As a result, family or co-workers often have to start assisting the individual with their daily responsibilities. This can lead to depression, resentment, agitation, and even anger as it strains relationships between the person affected and those closest to her.
Chronic pain often leads to depression. At least 30% of all people that suffer from chronic pain also suffer from some form of depression. The combination of the two, both chronic pain and depression, cause the individual to suffer far more than either alone.
As quality of life diminishes along with social well-being, numerous health issues can result. Sleeplessness, inability to perform normal daily functions, agitation, inability to concentrate, and can cause one to no longer be able to work. As the pain leads to more and more depression, it often starts a cycle, where the depression created by the chronic pain also increases the chronic pain, causing a downward spiral of debilitation.
What is the treatment for the vicious cycle of depression and chronic pain?
For starters, doctors no longer recommend extended bed rest, as this only exacerbates symptoms. Instead, a reasonable amount of rest combined with addressing the underlying problem and its resulting consequences are the key to getting life back to normal. Some of the steps include:
- Staying active and not avoiding certain activities that cause pain simply to avoid the pain. All activities should be discussed with your doctor, and unless your doctor feels it will aggravate the condition, you should continue doing them. As treatment continues and anything that irritates the condition is avoided, the pain will gradually subside.
- Distraction from the pain through focusing your attention on other things in your environment.
- Relaxation training, biofeedback, hypnotism, and guided imagery.
- Dissociation to detach yourself from the chronic pain.
- Cognitive therapy to help recognize and modify patterns of behavior and thought that are aggravating your condition.
- Getting your family and friends involved with your recovery process. By giving a greater understanding of your condition, they can function as a support group to help you through this tumultuous time.