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Anger And Fear: Overcoming The Emotional Side Effects Of Chronic Pain

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Unfortunately, dealing with pain on a daily basis probably means that you are also dealing with pain's side effects. Dealing with physical pain is linked to a host of emotional stresses, like anger and fear, which can affect your quality of life. As part of your pain management regimen, you should also incorporate strategies to overcome these unpleasant adversaries. 

Addressing Anger 

The problem with pain response is that the body goes into survival mode. This is great for you when you're faced with present danger, like a rabid bear, but when you are feeling intense pain all the time, your body has increased levels of survival hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, in order to fuel your body's "fight or flight" response. These hormones bring out a level of aggression that you wouldn't normally experience if you weren't in pain.

If you feel like you're constantly about to blow your top as you deal with the pain, you may need to consult with a psychologist, as well as physician in order to keep yourself and your family safe. They may offer some simple controlling suggestions, such as:

  • Teaching redirection. This take some mental work, but you can learn to redirect angry energy into more productive expressions of emotion. 
  • Using proper medication. Some people are more prone to anger than others. Sometimes, this can be due to chemical imbalance, and should be treated just as seriously as your pain. In fact, one study showed that people who are more easily angered have more intense feelings of physical pain. 
  • Keeping triggers at bay. Sometimes, pet peeves can escalate your temper until it blows. In order to avoid this, you can remove certain annoyances so that they won't be a problem for you. For example, if you can't stand being stuck in traffic, you may decide to leave for work fifteen minutes before the rush, just to save yourself some rage. 

Facing Fear

Being in constant pain has a unique effect on how your brain responds to injury and suffering. You may grow to fear certain aspects of daily living, because you know they could cause a flare up, or trigger the development of greater pain. Living in fear of pain can be unhealthy for a few reasons:

  • It can increase or cause chronic pain. If you, for example, suffer lingering pain from a knee injury that you sustained from playing soccer, the memory of that pain may be enough for you to refrain from playing sports ever again, and the stress of the memory may actually cause your whole body to stay in a state of anxiety-- which will only increase your pain, as stress prevents healing.
  • It can put limitations on your lifestyle. Fear of pain, like all phobias, can eventually lead to avoidance behaviors. If your fear is constantly at the forefront of all of your decisions, it can decrease your productivity in all other areas of your life. You may find that your fear will keep you from doing more things than your pain ever would.

​If you feel like fear has become a large portion of your experience with daily pain, it's important to resolve it before it becomes worse. You can do this by:

  • Faithfully taking your prescribed pain relief regimen. This doesn't mean simply taking your medications, but also following through on all physical therapy appointments and dietary and exercise recommendations. 
  • Bringing your fear to a qualified counseling service as soon as you notice it becoming a problem. Talking openly about your fears will allow your mind to change the way it responds to them. This is called metacognition--thinking about your own thinking. As you begin to recognize certain thought patterns, you will then be able to change them through the power of your own mind. 

Living with pain can have some adverse effects on your emotional health. Anger and fear don't have to be part of your state of mind. By seeking treatment for pain, and by seeing mental health professionals, you can get your recovery on track. 

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