Living with Chronic Pain

Coping With Regret and Chronic Pain


Regret is a painful emotion of guilt, remorse and disappointment. It involves anguish about a past event that could have been changed for a desirable outcome. Individuals with chronic pain may experience regret for various reasons.

Reasons for regret

A person with chronic pain often regrets an activity that resulted in their chronic pain. Some people may regret treatment decisions, such as having an irreversible surgery that resulted in complications. Perhaps they decided against a medication that could have helped.

Other individuals may regret decisions to disregard certain events or life experiences. Feelings of guilt may occur if transferring from full-time to part-time work due to chronic pain. They may regret choosing to stay home on a high-pain day instead of attending a soccer game where their child scored the winning goal.

Effects of regret

No matter the cause, regret has negative consequences on physical and mental well-being. It contributes to muscle tension or pain, joint pain, disturbed sleep, anxiety, and depression. Regretting past events can cause increased pain.

Coping with regret

Negative feelings associated with regret should be turned into positive forces. This involves the following:

  • Practice self kindness. It is important for individuals to remind themselves that the best decisions were made with the information known at the time. No one can predict which risks may or may not occur. Medical decisions involve weighing risks and benefits and making the best choice. Focusing on the present situation despite past decisions is more beneficial than pondering on what could have been.
  • Support what the body feels. It is normal to feel sadness for missing events or experiences; however, dwelling on them to the point of regret is unproductive. Individuals should work toward recognizing the fact that the best decisions are the ones that support the body and prevent worsened pain, fatigue, and other symptoms.
  • Accept the past. Individuals with chronic pain should accept decisions already made and focus on making the best choices for the present and future. Certain things cannot be controlled, regardless of the actions. The past cannot be changed, but future decisions can.
  • Speak to a counselor. Individuals who struggle with regret may want to speak with a counselor or therapist. This can help with processing and coping with regret and the negative emotions resulting from it. It can also help with moving forward in the future.

Additional sources: VeryWell Mind and U.S. News & World Report

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