For those living with chronic pain, it can be challenging to think of much else besides the intense discomfort. The emotional suffering is often more intolerable than physical pain. As a result, individuals living with chronic pain often experience increased levels of anxiety and anger.
When experiencing chronic pain, the reasoning parts of the brain remain offline while in survival mode.
Constant focus on the pain makes functioning more difficult and makes daily tasks feel insurmountable. Feelings of hopelessness lead many to isolate themselves. This state of mind becomes susceptible to developing cognitive distortions because the pain takes away the ability to focus and retain patience.
Over time, the brain becomes immersed in stress hormones, and thoughts and attention stay focused on sensations that indicate the return of pain. The pathways that form in your brain, as a result, create a feedback loop in the mind that exacerbates pain and suffering. Brain imaging shows that chronic pain has a damaging effect on the brain.
In his book Back in Control, Dr. David Hanscom describes his experience of living with chronic pain and treating patients with chronic pain.
According to Dr. David Hanscom, these patterns in the brain rob individuals of their perspective.
The term neural plasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. In other words, the brain develops where attention is focused.
Dr. Hanscom shares techniques to create space between thoughts and feelings to calm the nervous system using an expressive writing exercise. This technique can be adapted by anyone to create awareness, separation, and reprogramming the brain.
If you are still not convinced, check out his interview about Writing Your Way Out of Chronic Pain.
Written by: Dustin Ellis