Emotions and Chronic Pain

Without an emotional context there is no chronic pain. Emotional context is an essential component of chronic pain. Overcome the emotional part of pain then you overcome the pain. Easier said than done.

The some of the emotions that are associated with chronic pain are fear, anger, loss, sadness, shame, anxiety, loneliness, hopelessness, irritation, worry, helplessness, despair, hurt, and stress. The is a partial list and there may be no complete list. Nearly every negative emotion that I can think of or find in a reference is applicable. Suffice it to say that the most common emotions that I have encountered in my hernia mesh pain patients are fear, anger, loss, sadness, shame and anxiety.

Mesh main patients anticipate and fear their next bad episode of pain. They fear that they will never be free of their pain. They fear that something is seriously wrong with them. They are angry that someone or something has handed them this horrible fate that they do not deserve. They are angry that their doctors dismiss them. They are angry because they have not been validated. They feel a sense of loss and sadness because they have lost much due to their pain. They feel shame because they have been told and they think that somehow they may be responsible for their pain. They feel anxiety because they feel helpless, vulnerable and the feel that they may not be able to handle whatever comes next

My patients tell me many of the horrible and wrong things that doctors tell chronic pain patients which I am sure intensifies the emotional reaction and I am sure reinforces their chronic pain. Here is a short list.

  • “Everything looks fine here. I see nothing to explain your pain”
  • “It can’t be the mesh.”
  • “It is all in your head.”
  • “This is normal.”
  • “You need to see another specialist
  • “All of these tests were normal. There is nothing else we can do.”
  • “We can’t take the mesh out. It might kill you”
  • “We can’t take the mesh out. It won’t help your pain.”
  • “You may have to wait a year for the pain to go away.”

One of the therapies which addresses the emotional component of chronic pain and has been shown to help some patients is “Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy.” In this therapy patients are taught techniques on how to accept and examine awareness of their pain while detaching from the emotional component of their chronic pain. Overcome the emotion and you overcome the pain.

Another way to approach this is by understanding the true nature of chronic pain and how emotion reinforces the pain. With understanding comes the power to overcome. This is one of the principles that this website is based on. The second approach is to challenge and tear down misconception. Again that is what we are here for.