Supporting those living with chronic pain
By Nikki Swooper, NYU Intern
For individuals in chronic pain, those experiencing lifelong fatigue, or individuals facing specific stressors, the distribution of helpful therapeutic techniques is an integral part of aiding client coping. In order for all individuals to become healthy and flourish, specialized actions, like incorporating therapeutic lifestyle changes, positive mindsets, and utilizing social relationships as a coping mechanism, are assimilated into helping a client live their life to the fullest while in the presence of chronic illness. By searching for ways to find meaning while aiming to live healthier and diminish depressive episodes, there’s hope to create a more fulfilling and positive lifestyle in correlation to increasing life satisfaction.
Catastrophizing is often a term used for the spiral state a person can fall into when they begin thinking about a stressor in life. For individuals with chronic pain, catastrophizing can lead to overindulging into their life circumstances and contribute to depression or possible treatment regression. Those with chronic pain, when they perceive low social support, are more likely to catastrophize their chronic pain and more likely to show depressive symptoms in line with their catastrophizing (Buenaver et al., 2007). It’s also validated that people living with chronic pain have been shown to have less of a connection to their chronic pain when they’re happier (Zautra et al., 2001). So increasing interventions to improve social relationships, interpersonal support, and subsequent happiness, we can help individuals to cope with chronic pain and reduce catastrophizing.
Additionally, individuals with chronic pain have been shown to have a reduction in pain symptoms when practicing mindfulness and positive emotional therapies. Individuals with chronic pain who participated in journaling their daily emotions and activities saw better symptom reduction than those who didn’t participate in journaling (Seligman & Steen, 2005). However, those in the same experiment who participated in a task called “three good things” where they were instructed to write about three good things that happened that day saw even greater advantages even throughout a six month time frame.
Ultimately when individuals are able to focus on the positive aspects of their lives rather than the negative aspects they’re more likely to be happier and find gratitude in the things they do have (Albina, 2018). Having said all of the above if you or a loved one is having difficulties coping with chronic pain, be sure to utilize social supports, positive thinking, and journaling to decrease depression and catastrophization. For additional aids and techniques be sure to reach out to our counseling center or other trusted therapists for further support.
References: Albina, A. (2018). The Law of Attraction: Positive Thinking and Level of Gratitude towards Happiness. Central Mindanao University Journal of Science, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.52751/bjyr8516
Buenaver, L. F., Edwards, R. R., & Haythornthwaite, J. A. (2007). Pain-related catastrophizing and perceived social responses: Inter-relationships in the context of chronic pain. Pain, 127(3), 234–242. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2006.08.018
Seligman, M. E. P., & Steen, T. A. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. The American Psychologist, 60, 410–421. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410 Retrieved from: http://proxy.library.nyu.edu/login?url=https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2005-08033-003.html
Zautra, A., Smith, B., Affleck, G., & Tennen, H. (2001). Examinations of chronic pain and affect relationships: Applications of a dynamic model of affect. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69(5), 786–795. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.69.5.786