How Chronic Pain Affects Mental Health
Living with chronic pain goes beyond the initial injury and pain itself. As you will see below, the effect that chronic pain has on you mentally can be profound. Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for at least six months or more and is usually caused by an injury or illness. It is also a battle that often leads to more physical and mental health problems developing. Among the list of complications that chronic pain sufferers can endure are depression and its resulting symptoms:
- Depression: Depression can negatively affect the way you feel, the way you think and the way you act. Depression can cause you to lose interest in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed and
manifest into feelings of sadness and despair. Your ability to function at home and work can diminish or be greatly affected.
- Insomnia or lack of sleep: When experiencing insomnia, you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. You may also wake up tired or fatigued and have poor concentration or focus throughout your day.
- Suicidal ideation: You may have thoughts of harming yourself. These thoughts can range from considering the act to actually developing a detailed plan. You may find yourself having fleeting or floating thoughts, considering what type of medication in your medicine cabinet could harm you, or causing or inflicting pain upon yourself.
- Memory and/or cognitive issues: These issues are usually noticed when you begin having trouble remembering, making decisions, or misplacing objects. You may notice that you are unable to recall names of close friends or relatives, numbers, places, or where you have placed things.
- Anger and Irritability: You may experience outbursts that often seem unprovoked or unwarranted. You may also become easily frustrated.
- Isolation or social withdrawal: You may feel the need to separate yourself from others. You may seek solitude or avoid friends/family and activities you once enjoyed.
- Problems maintaining relationships: You may create conflicts or excuses to avoid family functions or friendly outings. You may experience difficulty communicating with your friends and family how you feel or feel as though you are a burden.
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and helplessness: You may feel a lack of hope or as if there is no future for you. You may feel as if you have nothing to offer to anyone and that you don’t contribute to society. You may feel powerless about your situation.
- Abusing substances: You may begin abusing alcohol or drugs.
- Anxiety and/or anxiety attacks: You may feel worried and nervous about different situations. This can often cause anxiety attacks to occur.
Mental Health Resources Available for Veterans
Recognizing these symptoms and taking proactive measures is the key to a better recovery. The VA offers many programs specifically for mental health and mental health awareness. On their website, you can access many articles discussing mental health conditions in depth, as well as find mental health support either locally or virtually.
For more information regarding mental health topics, please visit: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/
If you are a Veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or send a text message to 838255. Chatting is also available online at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
Pain and the Brain: The Link for Your Claim
Numerous studies have identified how pain can directly impact your brain and mental health. However, the VA doesn’t recognize chronic pain as its own condition and therefore, your condition must be rated as the symptom your chronic pain has produced. These claims would be considered as resulting secondary to your service-connected condition. As an example, if you had a service-connected back condition that caused chronic pain and that chronic pain led to your development of depression, the claim would be considered depression secondary to your service connected back condition.
Beyond your initial claim, it is important to consider how your mental health condition has impacted your life at home and work. While your physical condition may interfere with your ability to maintain employment, you should not be so quick to disregard the role that your mental condition takes either. An independent medical evaluation by a private doctor can help build your case and support your claim by specifying the limitations you encounter on a daily basis. These physical limitations can include the inability to lift, carry, sit, stand, walk, and climb. In regards to mental conditions, the limitations can include: decreased concentration, lack of stamina, feeling overwhelmed and unable to handle tasks/deadlines, difficulty interacting with customers or co-workers, and difficulty accepting feedback or criticism. For example, a veteran with a back condition has suffered for years from chronic pain. As a result, he has developed severe depression and anxiety. Now, he struggles at work due to his ever-growing task list and finds himself unable to not only handle the pressure but concentrate on completing the tasks. On top of that, he’s required to interact with clients and the mere thought alone leaves him feeling nervous and sends his heart racing. He has to take multiple breaks throughout the day to gather his thoughts and catch his breath. Using this example, it is easier to visualize how chronic pain can impact you far beyond the physical sense.
If you have experienced any of the above symptoms and need help with appealing a disability claim, contact us here