Chronic pain and psychological factors

Chronic pain and psychological factors

What are some common psychological conditions associated with chronic pain? A large number of them can be associated, since it regularly implies emotional discomfort, however I will mention those on which recent studies have been affected. The most frequent psychopathologies among patients who manifest chronic pain are the depression and disorders of anxiety.

The researchers observed that the lack of information can generate hopelessness, confusion and frustration, thus increasing the anguish, factors that directly affect the maintenance of chronic pain. The variable that most correlates chronic pain with suicide is depression. who experience some patients with chronic pain (Fisher, Haythornthwaite, Heinberg, Clark and Reed, 2002).


  • 1 Pilgrimage of the patient with chronic pain seeking relief
  • 2 Psychopathology of chronic pain
  • 3 What memories of pain do you keep in your mind and in your body?
  • 4 Psychological factors in the maintenance of chronic pain
  • 5 Indicators that can predict the chronicity of pain

Pilgrimage of the patient with chronic pain seeking relief

Lack of instruction and of general education about allergic topics, the fact that many times the consultation time with specialists is usually short ... "doctor's visit" they say, referring to the shortness of them, at least this is perceived by certain patients, perhaps due to issues they have around his condition that will hardly be clear to them in the consultation, since sometimes the resource of time and not of will on the part of the doctors is so short, that the patient does not quite understand what he has to do to improve his quality of lifetime.

That way the patient goes from one specialist to another, seeking relief for his pain, in many cases this fact can increase his fear, cause him excessive anticipatory anxiety, bewilderment, stress, sadness, frustration and an accumulation of emotions and feelings that can amplify the sensoperception of pain.

Psychopathology of chronic pain

It is common for chronic pain to cause suffering, so, in certain cases, due to comorbidity with other conditions, life as I knew it can change, it is common for emotions to be sometimes "in full bloom", psychopathologies with more presence among those who suffer from chronic pain are anxiety disorders and depression.

Sometimes the tension for pain can be constant, proving exhausting and even exhausting for the individual, that fatigue can also be chronicled, in these patients there is an increase in sleep latency, many of them suffer from insomnia, thus creating a Vicious circle, which in turn attracts other pathologies and complications.

At the University of Warwick, England, they discovered that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in combating insomnia in patients with long-term pain. They also discovered that patients with chronic pain not only they benefited from a better sleep but also experienced a positive impact on pain, fatigue and depression.

Memories and chronicles of pain

Through several investigations, physical and sexual abuse in childhood has been correlated with chronic pain (Lampe et al. 2003 and Green et al. 1999), found that women who had experienced a medical history marked by sexual abuse suffered greater anguish and pain.

Likewise, victims of post traumatic stress (Victor May, 2011), traumatic events are translated and saved as more painful memories, The brain also learns to associate these emotions with physical pain. Pain memories contain a representation of some nociceptive stimuli, this hand in hand with the perceptions of the person, beliefs, cognitions and emotions can produce pain. Emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, anguish and stress favor painful sensoperception.

What memories of pain do you keep in your mind and in your body?

When emotional discomfort does not work, it can lead to physical pain, if you have any memory of pain that generates deep emotional suffering, it is recommended that you work with it, if you find it very difficult you can seek psychological assistance. Good results have been observed with neuromodulation techniques to try to reduce the memories that conflict the person.

Chronic pain is usually accompanied by other conditions, due to its characteristics, it is common for the patient to have mood disorders, the lack of understanding of others and especially of himself and his sufferings, the degree of dependence to perform certain activities, asking why one day they can do everything they planned and even more, while the next day can be incapacitating to perform certain functions that "yesterday" seemed very simple, it is natural that this generates uncertainty and anticipatory anxiety, sometimes they can be more irritable and can even cause the individual to manifest aggressiveness (Fishbain, 2000).

When the person does not understand what is happening to him, he can generate feelings of guilt, shame and self-punishment, affecting his own assessment of himself and his self-esteem, which contributes to the person perceiving the pain more intensely. To avoid this, many resort to isolation, limiting the activities they used to enjoy. While it is true, that you should follow directions, be cautious and be careful, research has shown that the affective isolation, is a type of avoidance strategy that in the long term in patients with chronic pain contributes to their discomfort.

Social interaction is an important protection factor, it is common that these events experience fear, it is neither convenient nor adaptive to allow fear to dominate and end up incapacitating, as far as possible it is good to try to continue doing pleasant activities.

Psychological factors in the maintenance of chronic pain

Psychosocial aspects have an impact on persistent pain, the American Pain Association (2004) stated that the psychological aspects of persistent pain, providing evidence of the relationship of these factors with the adjustment to pain that lasts after a long time. (Keefe, F.J., Rumble, M.E., Scipio, C.D, Giordano, L.A. and Perri, L.M., 2004).

What psychological factors are involved in the maintenance of chronic pain? His research addressed psychological factors linked to increased pain and poor adaptation or adjustment to pain, mention the following:

  • Catastrophism of pain.
  • Anxiety associated with pain.
  • Fear of pain.
  • Impotence

Some factors associated with a good adaptation to it were:

  • Acceptance.
  • Self-efficiency
  • Cognitive conscious coping.
  • Willingness to change.
  • Optimistic Cognitions
  • Mental self-control
  • Reinterpretation of pain sensations.
  • Information Search.
  • Social support.

Research showed that more attention needs to be paid and the study of the social context of pain, evaluate the link between psychological factors and related brain activation and identify patterns of behavior that intervene with the perception of pain.

Indicators that can predict the chronicity of pain

  • Traits of neuroticism.
  • Hysterical manifestations.
  • Excessive stress or distress.
  • Anticipatory anxiety
  • Catastrophism
  • Rumination of deiderative thoughts.
  • Anguish and excessive anxiety.
  • Negation.

Certain personality traits can cause pain to intensify, remain or persist, people who manifest traits of neurotism and hysteria have greater anxiety and the latter has been directly associated with pain.

Catastrophism can be very pernicious, it refers to the assessments made by patients regarding the feeling of self-efficacy and their ability to cope with the adversities that chronic pain presupposes, implies thought rumination, which increase the anticipatory anxietyWhen this is the case, they are generally deiderative, rather than focusing on making adaptations and activities aimed at solving the problems and challenges that arise in their daily lives, nor are they associated with adaptive and consistent coping behaviors and strategies for pain. seek greater well-being. Grisart and Vanderlinden (2001), found that catastrophism can affect certain cognitive processes such as memory and attention,

“The greater the catastrophism there may be greater disability and not only that, but also an increase in pain intensity" Bishop et al. (2001)

Denial of the condition usually brings about poor adaptation, perhaps the person due to his illness, his level of activity has to be impacted in some way, but this can also mean only one more change for a better adjustment and adaptation to its new conditions, when there is acceptance and we let go of denial, change can begin.


Patients with chronic pain who have other serious conditions and are limited in some way, but nevertheless overcome feelings of helplessness, find it easier change the rhythm and tune it to the sound that life presents.

Decrease levels of stress and anxiety so that the mechanisms against pain function properly. Accepting that the conditions have made you different, moving according to your faculties and thinking about other opportunities to develop your talents, perhaps leaving your comfort zone and risking doing something you had never done before, is a good opportunity to explore new qualities, other abilities and talents that you had not given yourself an opportunity to develop.