Living with daily pain is physically, emotionally and mentally stressful. It can impact your ability to function at home and at work and you may find it difficult to participate in social activities and hobbies.
Some people with chronic pain have trouble sleeping, feel fatigued, find it hard to concentrate or have low self-esteem.
Research shows that people living with chronic pain are four times more likely to have anxiety and depression.
If you are living with chronic pain, it’s important to remember that:
- Everyone’s experience of living with chronic pain is different
- It’s ok to ask for help
- Mental health support is available - talking to someone is helpful
What is chronic pain?
Chronic, long-term or persistent pain is pain that lasts for more than three months. While acute pain is the normal sensation which alerts us to an injury or illness, chronic pain is one that persists, often for months or even longer.
What causes chronic pain?
Chronic pain can be caused by an underlying health condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or endometriosis. However, many people also experience chronic pain without a clear underlying condition or experience pain that can appear to be out of proportion with any injury or disease they have.
Chronic pain, and the conditions which cause it, are sometimes visible to others, for example if mobility is affected. But very often, the conditions are invisible.
Many conditions leading to chronic pain can also be easily misdiagnosed or misunderstood, which can lead to delays in receiving appropriate treatment or support.
What impact does chronic pain have on our mental health?
Everyone’s experience of living with chronic pain is different and can depend on lots of different factors, such as when the pain began, diagnosis, treatments available, personal and economic circumstances, support networks and coping strategies.
Living with chronic pain can have knock-on effects for many areas of our lives, including our mental health.
It is common for people with chronic pain to feel fatigued, find it hard to concentrate and have low self-esteem.
Pain can have a significant impact on our sleep. Not getting enough, good quality sleep can in turn exacerbate the cause of the chronic pain and also lead to other adverse impacts, such as anxiety and depression.
Researchers have likened the experience of being diagnosed with chronic pain to grief - experiencing a sense of loss for the person they were, the things they used to do, their identity and their belongingness. All of these things are central to how we experience ourselves in the world and with other people.
Adjusting to living with changed physicality, the effects of medication and needing to give constant thought to self-management can be life-changing. But there is support out there.
Where can I turn for help?
There are a range of organisations and resources that can support you with chronic pain:
- Self-help guide: NHS Inform offers a self-help guide that uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you live with chronic pain
- Self-help tips: This resource from the NHS suggests 10 ways to reduce chronic pain
- Chronic pain toolkit: The Pain Toolkit provides simple, practical advice on how to live better with long-term pain
- Helplines: Pain Concern and Action on Pain have helplines staffed by people with long-term pain, who can put you in touch with local patient support groups
If your chronic pain is impacting your mental health, we’re here for you.
Text SHOUT to 85258 to start a free, confidential conversation with a trained Shout Volunteer any time of the day or night.
If your life is at imminent risk, please call 999 immediately.