Emotions and Chronic Pain

For those living with chronic pain, it isn’t just the physical toll they need to deal with. Living in constant pain can have a significant impact on emotions too. A recent study has revealed that this pain can disrupt emotions at a chemical level.

Here, we’ll look at the emotional impact of chronic pain and what you can do to create a better balance.

Study shows neurotransmitter imbalance in those with chronic pain

A recent study has shown that those suffering from chronic pain have an imbalance of neurotransmitters that regulate emotions. The findings, published within the European Journal of Pain, show persistent pain can trigger chemical disruption.

According to research, there is a link between reduced GABA and ongoing pain. GABA is an inhibitive neurotransmitter located within the medial prefrontal cortex. Its main purpose is to help balance emotions. A total of 48 patients were scanned for GABA using advanced neurological imaging. Half of the participants had chronic pain and it was revealed they had significantly lower levels of GABA than those living without it.

It is the first time that human trials have confirmed the link between lower GABA levels and chronic pain.

How does chronic pain affect emotions?

Chronic pain is ongoing for months, sometimes years. Many studies have shown the emotional toll it can take on patients.

Depression is commonly linked to chronic pain. This is unsurprising given that being in constant pain stops you from socialising, working, and living a normal life. In some cases, patients even experience a major depressive disorder.

The depression that comes with the condition is often linked to insomnia. Those living with chronic pain tend to find it much harder to fall and stay asleep. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, it plays havoc with your emotions. You’ll experience regular mood swings, have trouble with concentration and your memory, as well as deal with increased anxiety and depression.

Anxiety is common in chronic pain sufferers too. It could be that you worry about paying your bills if you can’t work. The pain itself can also cause anxiety as you wonder if it will ever resolve. In some cases, patients develop panic attacks when their anxiety gets too high.

These are just some of the ways pain can impact your emotions. It can be difficult living with the condition, particularly when very few people understand it. However, there are treatment options available.

Getting help

Although living with chronic pain can be debilitating, help is available. Seeking therapy can be useful in helping you to deal with severe emotional issues such as depression and anxiety. However, it is also important to keep the body moving.

Chronic pain can stop you from being active, which puts the muscles and joints at risk. Staying active with physiotherapy exercises can help to reduce pain and improve your range of movement.

The latest study shows that the emotional side effects may be out of the patient’s control. So, the next time you feel emotional, remember it isn’t your fault. Book a consultation today with specialist Dr Ivanova-Stoilova to discover how you can make your chronic pain more manageable and restore your quality of life.