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How Chronic Pain Affects Mental Health And Coping Mechanisms

artwork by Vanshika

Chronic pain is strongly associated with depression, anxiety, and a generally lower quality of life. Not a great mix...

You don’t have to resign yourself to that fate, though.

Here, we’ll give you useful tools to cope with many of the chronic pain effects on mental health.


How chronic pain affects mental health

Studies have shown that long-term and short-term pain are processed differently in your brain:

  • With long-term pain, your central nervous system actually changes the circuits that process your senses, emotions, and movements that normally reduce the pain you feel.

  • Put simply, the longer the pain lingers, the more you’re going to feel increased anxiety, fear, and depression, just because of how your body naturally reacts.

When you have chronic pain you may feel:


without an obvious cause of your pain, people are less likely to be able to empathize. It’s not easy to talk to people about pain and loneliness can set in.


It’s tiring to be in pain 24/7, and it’s not surprising that it can get you down. The feeling that you can’t escape can breed anxiety and escalate to depression.


A cure, or even simple answers to why you’re suffering, aren’t always forthcoming. Getting frustrated and angry is a natural response.


If you can’t do what feels normal, like a full day’s work or playing with your children, guilt can set in. It’s not a separate disorder, but the feelings can still be overwhelming.

You need to understand the mental toll your pain is taking; poor mental health can make your pain feel worse and even make it harder to manage.

Here are ways you can help yourself...


Chronic pain and mental health: how to cope

You should be able to find relief in some or all of these techniques:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

It’s the best-studied psychotherapy for pain treatment and it’s established as a solid treatment for depression and anxiety, too, according to Harvard Medical School.

Meditation and/or Mind-Body Awareness.

It’s not just sitting still and quiet whilst trying to focus. You can use methods like exploring virtual worlds using the Flowly App. These practices distract you from pain, relieve stress, and magnify your positive emotions.

Amend thinking patterns.

You can learn to recognize negative thoughts and switch them to make your mood better and help you to cope. Talking therapies can help you change patterns that cause harm and avoid future spirals into depression.


Work on building up and maintaining a support network of doctors, friends, family, and professionals, who can be relied on. You don’t have to cope with everything on your own; you’re only human. For example, in the Flowly app, there is a built-in community where you can find other peers who can help support you and answer questions.

A life of chronic pain can really affect your self-esteem, giving you feelings of anger, depression, frustration, and even guilt. You can still help yourself with our techniques.

Now you know more about the link between chronic pain and mental health you can start to work on learning the tools you need to combat it.


Featured artwork by Vanshika

An art enthusiast learning to journal my life and experiences.

Trying to change things bit by bit with art.

Follow my mental health journey on @vanstheshoe

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