Living with Chronic Pain

The Impact of Chronic Pain on the Family Unit


When an individual experiences chronic pain, which is often defined as pain lasting longer than three to six months, the individual’s family is also affected. Various factors associated with chronic pain can strain relationships and can impact the family as a whole.

Family roles

Roles and responsibilities within the family unit may change when a family member is dealing with chronic pain. If the primary wage earner is affected by chronic pain, they may not be able to keep the same career or work the same number of hours. If the individual with chronic pain was primarily responsible for household tasks, such as cleaning, cooking or child care, they may not be able to complete those tasks in the same way as they did before dealing with chronic pain.


Dealing with chronic pain can create a variety of emotions not only for the individual but also for their family members. The individual with chronic pain may feel guilty because they cannot contribute to the family in the same way as they once did. Guilt can also affect family members because they cannot fix or cure the chronic pain condition. Family members may feel frustrated or angry when chronic pain causes their loved one to be irritable or withdrawn. Anxiety about their loved one’s condition can also occur. Family members may also feel resentment about additional responsibilities they have to assume. Also, children are prone to blaming themselves for a parent’s pain and may be saddened if chronic pain causes a reduction in attention or affection from a parent.


A couple’s sex life may be negatively impacted due to chronic pain. Intimacy and sexual activity may be affected when one person in the relationship is in pain, which can lead to frustration and a strained relationship.


The family’s regular schedule often changes due to medical appointments, treatments, phone calls with insurance companies, and other related activities. These tasks can take significant amounts of time, potentially interfering with time with family and friends, scheduled vacations, or leisure activities.


The high cost of managing chronic pain along with possible lost wages often contributes to financial stress. The family’s standard of living may be affected.

Families need to be aware of these potential challenges when dealing with chronic pain. It is essential that the family works together to prevent or minimize the effects of chronic pain on the family unit.

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