Living with Chronic Pain

Seldom-Recognized Consequences of Chronic Pain


Chronic pain can impact several aspects of a person’s life. Long-term pain causes various complications, both physically and mentally. Individuals living with chronic pain often deal with consequences that are seldom recognized. 

Mental health

Chronic pain can take a horrible toll on a person’s mental health. Feelings of guilt, embarrassment, anger, frustration, depression, hopelessness, and self-blame are very common. When these feelings are unrecognized or dealt with improperly, they can turn into maladaptive coping mechanisms and mental health issues. This may include anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation.

Sleep disturbances

Chronic pain frequently causes sleep difficulties. Trying to sleep while experiencing pain can become a fruitless effort, leaving a person tossing and turning all night. Sleep is essential for functioning: inadequate sleep impacts all facets of a person’s life. Sleep disturbances may result in mood changes, high blood pressure, and a higher rate of injury due to accidents caused by dozing off or not being alert.

Financial difficulties

Living with chronic pain may cause missed work or the inability to work. This places a financial strain on making enough money to survive. Additionally, spending money on health care appointments, medicines, accessibility devices, and other treatments causes a slew of financial difficulties and debt.


Chronic pain can impact how thoughts are processed. Individuals who constantly deal with chronic pain frequently have difficulty with memory, processing speed, and executive functioning. This negatively impacts a person’s daily life by reducing the use of cognition skills for regular activities. 

Cardiovascular health

Chronic pain can cause hypertension, or high blood pressure, due to the interruption of the baroreflex, which is the mechanism that is in control of changing blood pressure in the body. This can lead to serious health issues, including heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and angina. 

Reduced sexual libido

Reduced sexual libido is a side effect of chronic pain. This may be because of the pain itself, the medication used to mitigate it, hormonal changes that occur in response to pain, or social difficulties that can arise in response to chronic pain.

Social difficulties

Relationships often change due to chronic pain. Communication issues might emerge and isolation may occur. The inability to participate in activities with loved ones may prompt bad moods. This can result in relationships changing or even ending. The anxiety and fear of losing a loved one is also difficult to manage.

Altered central nervous system processing

Chronic pain causes the neural pathways to become overly-sensitized and over-reactive. The actual structure and functioning of the nervous system is altered. A person with chronic pain is likely to experience heightened responses to acute pain and certain senses, including smell or taste.

Additional sources: Science Daily, Psychology Today, American Psychiatric Association, and Oxford University Press: Pain Medicine

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