Posted by Bryony Holmes on 5 November, 2021
There is one big myth about chronic pain conditions that all of us at TALKWORKS are keen to dispell before going any further...
IT IS NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD.
A huge difficulty those of us with chronic pain conditions can face is that because we cannot physically see the pain (like you could with a broken leg). People may suggest you are over-exaggerating or making it up, and sometimes, we can begin to believe them, and not access support that is needed and deserved. It doesn’t matter if the pain can’t be seen, if it is causing you significant difficulties across multiple areas of life and health, then it is time to seek support.
Our physical and mental health are hugely interconnected and if we are experiencing significant difficulties with one, we are likely to be experiencing significant difficulties with the other. This is very often the case when experiencing difficulties with chronic pain. This is often related to the mind-body connection. How we feel physically can affect how we think, which can then have a knock-on effect on how we feel. If we are feeling negative emotions, such as feeling low or anxious, this can then feedback into how we are feeling physically, potentially worsening these symptoms. This connection continues to go back-and-forth in this unhelpful pattern worsening how we are feeling physically and mentally. This can then also feed into our behaviours, changing what we do again, often in an unhelpful way, which contributes to maintaining the negative physical feelings and thoughts.
Before we know it we are stuck in a vicious cycle of depression or anxiety alongside the difficulties already being experienced with chronic pain. The physical and mental health difficulties we are then experiencing can feed into other areas of our lives such as work, relationships, family, leisure time and so on. Therefore, it’s really important to make sure we are accessing support for both our physical and mental wellbeing when we are struggling with long term chronic pain conditions.
TALKWORKS has a specific Talking Health team, which has been created to provide cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to those with long term conditions of a huge variety, including and not by any means limited to, conditions involving chronic pain.
The overall aim of CBT, in a very brief nutshell, is to teach us skills and techniques to help us manage how we feel by breaking the vicious cycle above. Specifically in the context of anxiety and depression. CBT breaks vicious cycles by teaching us ways of thinking or behaving which are more helpful to us in the long term, rather than only being helpful in the short term, as is often the case with the thoughts or behaviours contributing to maintaining vicious cycles. In Talking Health, you will be taught techniques to improve the impact of your physical health on your mental health.