Living with Chronic Pain
Online Support Groups
An online support group is a virtual means of communication that brings people with shared life experiences together. Isolation can exacerbate chronic pain. However, talking with others who have similar issues can provide social and emotional support. An online support group can also be a low-cost approach to improve self-management skills and discuss effective ways to cope with chronic pain. There are numerous online support groups for various conditions, such as chronic medical conditions, cancer, addiction, depression, bereavement, etc.
Advantages of online support groups
In-person support groups may be preferred by some individuals; however, online support groups have several advantages. Participation is more flexible, may occur more frequently, and is accessible regardless of location. Also, online groups generally allow for privacy and anonymity.
Benefits of an online support group include the following:
- Decreased feelings of loneliness or isolation
- Increased understanding or knowledge about a condition or shared experience
- Having a forum for openly sharing thoughts and feelings
- Receiving feedback from others
- Gaining a sense of empowerment or hope
- Learning about available resources
Disadvantages of an online support group
Despite the benefits, there can also be disadvantages related to online support groups. Communication is in writing, which can be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Anonymous individuals may engage in improper or disrespectful behaviors. Online support groups may also be prone to sharing misinformation.
At times, support groups can become toxic and cause more harm than good. Signs of a toxic support group include the following:
- Inappropriate or inaccurate medical advice
- Conversations that center around complaining
- Conversations that create a victim mentality, in which there is no hope to improve a situation or stop bad things from happening
- Competitions between group members over which situation, pain or experience is the worst
- Lack of confidentiality
If these red flags occur frequently in an online support group, individuals should consider finding a different group.
Additional source: Psychology Today