Chronic pain can often be debilitating, primarily when it exists alongside other illnesses. But the adverse effects of long-lasting pain goes beyond the physical. It can also affect our emotional and mental health.
According to research, chronic pain can be viewed as a neurological disease, as it can also negatively affect a patient’s cognitive processes, mental health, and brain function. Let’s talk about those effects in detail:
- Increased risk of mental illness
- Dependence on medication
- Sleep disturbances
- Performance and relationships
- How to address the effects of chronic pain on mental health
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Increased risk of mental illness
Similar to neuropathy treatment, the longer a patient goes without proper pain management, the worse their condition gets over time. With chronic pain, patients are more at risk of mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, due to the changes in the central nervous system brought about by pain. Thus, the longer the pain exists, the higher is the risk of developing mental health issues.
Dependence on medication
Medication is the most common treatment for chronic pain. While prescription medicines such as opioids can give almost instant relief to people suffering from chronic pain, the fact that they are useful and fast-acting also makes them highly addictive.
This ties in with our previous point. Constant and long-lasting pain makes individuals more susceptible to feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression. As opioids get rid of the pain temporarily, it also gives them the feeling of euphoria. However, this feeling is also temporary, and when the pain comes back, so do the negative emotions. This constant cycle of pain and relief can easily lead to addiction, which has negative implications of its own.
People who suffer from chronic pain often find it challenging to complete a full 7-8 hours of sleep. The lack of restful sleep can lead to even worse moods, excessive daytime sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating.
Performance and relationships
The adverse effects of chronic pain often bleed into other aspects of one’s life, including school, work, and relationships. Living with chronic pain can affect one’s performance at school or work, often spiraling into more significant problems. At the same time, it can change how a person treats other people, sometimes being less patient and more aggressive.
These aspects also play significant roles in one’s mental health. When chronic pain leads to social isolation and low self-esteem, a person’s mental health is more likely to deteriorate.
How to address the effects of chronic pain on mental health
Chronic pain affects almost every aspect of one’s life, especially mental health. To minimize these effects and increase the quality of life, here are some of the best suggestions:
- Establish a good support system
- Sign up for a pain management program
- Try alternative pain management treatments to avoid medication
- Seek medical help for mental health
- Reduce stress
- Engage in regular exercise and eat a balanced diet
- Avoid alcohol consumption
- Find activities that will keep you busy to avoid focusing on pain
Most importantly, always consult your primary care provider. When you feel that the treatment is not enough or you would like to try other forms of treatment, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.