Friday, January 12, 2007

Academy of Cognitive Therapy - - Chronic Pain

How our thoughts, feelings, and actions affect our pain

When the pain signal is experienced and processed in the brain, certain thoughts, memories and emotions may be activated. So, when a person experiences a pain sensation, s/he will have some emotional response(s) to it and will experience certain thoughts and/or images during or immediately following the pain. Similarly, thoughts and emotions that are activated in the brain may also affect the pain signal. In other words, our thoughts, memories, and emotions can influence the experience of pain physiologically.

For example, a chronic pain patient named Phil experiences burning, numbing sensations in his lower back and legs. He feels frustrated and sad, and thinks, “This pain is horrible. I cannot handle it. This is so unbearable. I cannot go on like this.” Next, Phil imagines the pain taking over his whole body. His pain worsens. He becomes even more absorbed in his pain, frustration, and sadness. He decides to go back to sleep to escape from this pain. Why is Phil feeling horrible? It isn’t simply because he is experiencing severe pain. It is, in part, because of what he is telling himself about the pain—in other words, the meaning he has given his pain. Phil has interpreted his pain as being “uncontrollable” and “unmanageable.” He thinks of himself as a victim—powerless to stop his pain. His negative thoughts start taking on a life of their own.{07056306-1756-40E2-ABB1-9DA4C4FBC99F}

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