Managing the Emotional and Mental Effects of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is an issue faced by a magnitude of people across the planet, especially those who are experiencing costochondritis. Chronic pain can have serious impacts on your mental health. Living with pain that persists can be difficult, but fortunately there are a few practices can markedly decrease the emotional and mental effects of chronic pain, and that’s exactly what we’re going to discuss in this article.

What is chronic pain? 

Unlike normal pain that can be treated and goes away with time, chronic pain is a form of pain that continues for a longer time. If your pain carries on for a long period of time (typically over 12 weeks) despite medication and treatment, then it may be deemed chronic. 

What causes chronic pain?

Causes of chronic pain may include a variety of conditions, including Costochondritis which can cause sharp pain in chest due to inflammation of the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breastbone (sternum). Fibromyalgia is another condition that causes pain throughout the muscles and bones of your whole body and is among the most common causes of chronic pain. Other reasons may include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), rheumatoid arthritis, surgery-related pain, muscle strains, nerve damage, lower back pain, and similar painful, persistent conditions.

You are not alone

Chronic pain is so common that it impacts 1 in 5 people, or almost 1.5 billion people across the planet. In America alone, 50 million people have chronic pain and almost 20% of American adults have some type of chronic discomfort. You don’t need to feel isolated if you’re the only one facing such issues in your circle, rather it’s a common but unfortunately invisible problem faced by billions of people. Fortunately, treatments are constantly improving through research and there are a wide variety of treatments and home remedies that you can try to ease your pain.

Mental Impacts of Chronic Pain

Dealing with chronic pain over long periods can have impacts on your mental health. If you have chronic pain, you may experience mental problems such as:

  • Forgetfulness: Chronic pain can impair your memory causing you to forget important details sometimes such as names or figures.
  • Headaches: Long-term pain may induce constant headaches. Chronic pain and headaches may coexist in some patients and many people have reported having more headaches after developing a chronic illness.
  • Attention Span: People with chronic pain sometimes have a shorter attention span and can have difficulty keeping focus. Office workers and students report problems such as “zoning out” in class or at work due to chronic pain.
  • Insomnia: Chronic pain can also disrupt your sleep schedule and make it difficult to sleep properly. Lack of sleep and not being able to rest properly are commonly reported by patients. A lack of sleep can make other medical problems worse.
  • Fatigue: Dealing with chronic pain can cause you to feel restless and tired all the time. You may have issues studying or working properly due to being exhausted all the time.

Emotional Effects of Chronic Pain

Along with physical and mental problems, chronic pain can cause a variety of emotional problems for the person who bears it. These are psychological issues that can be fixed and prevented with time. These may include:

  • Depression: Mood disorders such as depression are common for people going through a chronic illness. You don’t tend to feel good about yourself and your general mood is negative.
  • Anxiety: You feel stressed about your future and overall welfare. You fear people not understanding your condition and stressing over when your next episode is going to hit.
  • Loss of Enjoyment: You no longer feel interested in things that once used to be enjoyable. You feel passive about taking part in any hobbies you once liked. 
  • Irritable temper: You get irritated causing emotional discomfort to you and people around you. You feel social frustration and prefer not to socialize. 
  • Social Stigma and Isolation: You think you are not strong enough to deal with the pain and perceive that society may judge you negatively. You feel isolated and alone and that can cause further stress.

Ways to Manage Emotional Effects of Chronic Pain

Thankfully, there are some effective practices with which you can substantially improve your emotional well-being. These can help you feel and live a lot better. Tested and proven, following these practices will show you benefits with time.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness has shown to decrease the pain associated with chronic illness by an astounding 90%. It has also proven to be more effective than prescribed painkillers for most of the patients. Mindfulness is an ancient, tested technique that soothes your brain patterns and with time restructures the brain for overall improved functioning, and of course, less negativity. 

Breathing deeply and focusing on your breathing has been scientifically proven to improve your cognition and give you a feeling of relaxation, decreasing your pain and giving mental clarity.

People have reported their pain reduced significantly even to nonexistent levels, simply due to practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a natural and harmless way that will also help you ease depression, anxiety, and mood disorders by reprogramming your brain to a better state. It also improves your focus and enhances memory.

How Do You Practice Mindfulness?

The gist of mindfulness lies in purposely paying attention to something without judgment. When it comes to thinking, it’s like watching the thoughts going through your head without engaging in them or judging them. Just plainly observe what’s going on in your head. Instead of getting involved in negative thoughts and litany of judgments when we experience pain. Mindfulness tells us to observe the thoughts and pain itself without judgment.

Daily mindfulness can help people with chronic pain because sometimes there are depressive or worrisome thoughts about the pain. If you non-judgmentally observe these thoughts, you will see these thoughts are absurd and lead to nothing productive, and by observing they will lose their essence. Being able to focus on your breathing, relaxing and observing your body as it is while monitoring for any negative thoughts will help ease off depression and anxiety. By focusing, you also improve your memory and attention span.

You can practice live with a practitioner or get help from the wide variety of resources available on the internet such as books, CDs, Spotify playlists, or YouTube channels to perform effective mindfulness and get the best results.

Cut Back On Substance Abuse

It might seem reasonable to resort to drinking alcohol, smoking, or using any other drug that gives momentary satisfaction. They might feel like a tempting quick fix while you’re consuming them but they are damaging your body and only making your condition worse in the long run. 

Substance abuse can disturb sleep patterns and can worsen depression. More problems resulting from drug use will cause more stress, which makes the situation even worse. The best thing to do in this case is to limit their usage or stop them altogether.

Join A Support Group

You can find local or national support groups that provide support for people that are living with chronic pain, as well as local groups or even Facebook groups for specific conditions. You can find good information and support from people in these groups, and joining such a group can help rid you of isolation and give you an activity to participate in.

Stay Busy By Engaging in Activities

Isolation and inactivity are among the worst fuel for depression. The more you stay alone and passive, the more your negative thoughts multiply. The best course of action is to engage in a distraction, some hobby or activity that you enjoy that takes your mind away to another place for a minute. 

Cross stitching, crocheting, knitting, painting, online gaming, reading books, writing something, online classes or even taking short walks while listening to music or anything you enjoy can prove to be a great distraction. The more you like doing something, the more time you’ll spend, and the happier you’ll feel when you’re free from negative thoughts.

Chronic pain may be a worldwide problem, yet millions of people profoundly improve their lives and overcome pain with these proven practices, and so can you. There’s an abundance of help and support out there. Take a step by practicing these techniques, socializing, and engaging in activities and hobbies that improve you so that you can live a long, healthy, and happy life.

Has costochondritis affected your mental health? What have you found effective for managing your mental and emotional health? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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