How Can Psychotherapy Help with Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness?

Although pain is a natural function of the human body, millions of people experience pain that is chronic, debilitating and that interferes with their daily lives. The same can be said for illness. Everyone gets sick here and there. But there are millions of people who suffer from chronic, sometimes invisible, illnesses that can be incapacitating.

If you ask anyone who experiences chronic pain or illness, you will find that, for most, dealing with chronic pain or illness means not only physical burdens, but mental burdens as well. It may mean not only unrelenting doctor visits, procedures and/or surgeries, but also difficulties with employment, an inability to engage in once enjoyable activities, anxiety about the future, friends and family who do not understand, etc. The list goes on.

So how can psychotherapy help you with your chronic pain or chronic illness?

Many individuals with chronic pain or chronic illness grieve for the life they once had and the person they once were. This grieving process is normal and it is a very important part of learning to accept ones condition. Psychotherapy can help you through this process by helping you deal with the anger, frustration, and loss that often accompanies chronic pain and chronic illness. Psychotherapy can also teach you coping skills that will help you minimize the stress, anxiety and depression you may be experiencing and move toward acceptance.

Chronic pain and chronic illness can change a person’s thought process. The once cheerful, outgoing, positive person may find themselves feeling sad and negative, isolating themselves and unable to enjoy life. Psychotherapy can help you identify and adjust negative thinking patterns so that you are able to focus on the positive aspects of your life, redefine who you are, and make accommodations in your life that will help you reestablish a sense of self control.

Having chronic pain and/or a chronic illness can often make you feel isolated from friends and family. Not only do they not understand what you are going through, having chronic pain or a chronic illness often makes it hard to engage in social activities. It may make it difficult to complete household chores, which can be frustrating to you and your significant other. You may find it difficult to talk about anything other than your chronic pain or chronic illness with your friends and family because it is always on your mind. Psychotherapy can help you learn to pace your activities and chores which will help you accomplish your goals, it will help you with the anxiety that often accompanies social activities, and it will help you learn to deal with the constant ruminations about your illness that make it so difficult to think about anything else.

Many people suffering from chronic pain and chronic illness have difficulty sleeping. It has been proven that lack of sleep exacerbates pain. Therefore, adequate sleep is extremely important. Psychotherapy can help patients with sleep hygiene, which involves developing or redefining a bedtime ritual, relaxation techniques, thought stopping techniques, and identification of environmental factors that may contribute to difficulty sleeping.

If you can relate to anything I have talked about above, don’t hesitate to seek help! It can help you gain back your self-control and begin enjoying life again!