Skip to main content

Pain and your emotions

If you have long-term pain you may be anxious about what it means, how long it will last and how much it interferes with your daily life.

This can mean you dwell on the pain and it can start to take control of the way you live your life.

Fear and avoidance

Dr Alf Collins, a consultant in pain management at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, says a lot of anxiety about pain is misguided. "For example, a lot of people who get angina pain think it's a mini heart attack. They then try to avoid any situation that they think brought that pain on.

"Worrying about the pain means they do less, and this loss of activity means they become more and more disabled."

Dr Collins says it's not the pain that rules the lives of some people, but what they think the pain means. "Fear and avoidance is one of the biggest problems associated with pain, and this can be as restricting as the pain itself.

"It's important to talk to your GP rather than taking more and more painkillers. Ask yourself how much of your problem is worry and how much is the sensation of pain."

Counselling

One of the best ways of treating pain is to continue your normal activities as much as possible. According to Dr Collins you might need a psychologist to do this. Support is available and your GP can refer you to a clinical psychologist.

Kevin Vowles, clinical psychologist and research fellow at the Bath Centre for Pain Services, says emotional distress and chronic pain often go together.

"When pain is chronic, there is significant emotional distress, and the treatment doesn't always tackle the pain first. Often, the best course of action is to improve the way the person with pain is functioning. This could be by encouraging them to engage in meaningful activities, for example.

"Feeling distress is normal, and it will continue, but your GP can help you make sure it doesn't interfere with day-to-day life.

"If that doesn't work, you may be referred to see someone who specialises in chronic pain, although many people do not need specialist care."

For more information on the help available from the NHS read our article on NHS help for people with pain.

Article provided by NHS Choices

See original on NHS Choices

Feedback