Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness

Chronic pain and/or Chronic Illness is an all too common part of the human experience and the psychological consequences can be serious. While therapy can't cure an illness or stop physical pain, it can help us find ways to cope, to advocate for ourselves and can aid us in discovering ways to enhance our quality of life.

Many medical conditions aren't visible, and chronic pain certainly isn't. As a result, others may not have much understanding of our experience and in the worst cases, we can be treated as if we're exaggerating symptoms or even making them up. We can also go through months or even years of frustration trying to find something that will cure or at least help us. At some time or another, nearly all those with chronic pain or a chronic illness will struggle emotionally and psychologically.

Psychological and emotional responses to chronic illness or chronic pain can include:

  • Grief over loss of some of our capabilities

  • Shock

  • Anger

  • Denial

  • Anxiety and feeling overwhelmed

  • Fear we'll never get better

  • Depression

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Loss of self esteem and sense of identity

  • Increased feelings of vulnerability

  • Feelings of isolation

  • Irritability

  • Excessive guilt

At times, people experience trauma as part of the experience of an injury or illness. Painful medical procedures, surgery, the shock of a terrifying diagnosis, or the accident that caused the injury and chronic pain can all be traumatic. EMDR and Lifespan Integration can sometimes be helpful in treating for those traumas.

Chronic pain can be exhausting and depressing. Fortunately, Mindfulness practice has proven helpful in managing the pain and even in changing our perception of the pain so that it's not as intense.  

Chronic illness and chronic pain can put you on an emotional rollercoaster, feeling angry and hopeless one day, terrified the next, and hopeful the day after that. Receiving support and learning ways to cope with all the intense emotions are often a part of therapy when working with chronic illness or chronic pain. Another place where therapy can be helpful is in finding a way back to some sense of quality of life given the limitations of the illness or pain, through considering options, coming up with small steps towards finding new interests, new employment or new ways to exercise, and working through any blocks to progress that arise. This can mean treatment for depression and/or anxiety. You may not be able to control all of what happens in your body, but you can learn a new mindset and new ways to cope that improve your day to day life.