Chronic Pain

Key Psychological Stages of Chronic Pain

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People with chronic pain may have a hard time understanding the psychological changes they go through. It may also be hard to explain these feelings to other people. Understanding the psychological effects of chronic pain is an important part of the healing process. Here are the seven psychological stages of chronic pain you need to be aware of. 

Denial

Denial is often the first stage of pain. People who are in denial may think their pain will go away or that it is all in their head. They may also believe that their doctor is wrong about their diagnosis. 

Desperation

During the desperation stage, a person begins to understand that their life is not the same as it used to be. The person becomes fixated on trying to figure out what they did wrong to cause the pain. Desperation is often accompanied by guilt or pleading to become a better person if the pain goes away. 

Anger

Anger comes after despair as the chronic pain patient realizes that they cannot make their pain go away so quickly. This may be accompanied by thoughts such as, “I didn’t do anything to deserve this. This is not fair!” Anger is a necessary part of the healing process and should be addressed right away.

Depression and Anxiety

Once a person realizes they are going to be dealing with chronic pain permanently, they start feeling depressed or anxious. They retreat and do not want to go out in public or see loved ones. They may be bombarded by medical bills and don’t know how they are going to pay them. The depression and anxiety stage can be described as a sense of total loss of the life the affected person once had. 

Confusion

Chronic pain may mean that a person has to give up the things they once loved doing, such as their career or hobbies. This can cause the person to become confused about who they are. Collective thoughts may include, “I don’t even recognize myself anymore.”

Forming New Life Goals

During this stage, the person affected begins to develop new goals that must be done to get through the day. This may include thoughts such as, “I may not be able to run every day anymore, but I can walk several times a week.” 

Acceptance

Acceptance comes when the person has finally accepted their chronic pain as a daily part of their life. They may still have days when they are depressed or angry, but their focus now primarily lies in overcoming the pain. Common thoughts are, “I am not going to let this define me.”