Psychological treatments are an important aspect of pain management because of the biological, psychological, and emotional factors that lead to diminishing mental health. Understanding and managing the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that accompany the physical discomfort can help certain people effectively cope with their pain and possibly reduce the intensity at the same time.
After a few sessions, a therapist will develop a treatment plan to address both physical and emotional symptoms, such as anxiety and depression that accompany pain. In many cases, patients suffer from Somatic Symptom Disorder, in which unexpressed emotions, needs, or desires have been converted into physical pain that make it difficult or impossible for them to work, have a healthy relationship, or simply enjoy everyday life.
People with chronic pain may sometimes resist exploring the possibility that their pain has an emotional root, perhaps out of fear of being accused of inventing the symptoms or causing them on purpose. In those cases, unaddressed grief, anger, and feeling emotionally overwhelmed prove to be the root cause for pain. Tackling any unresolved issues can help reduce or alleviate symptoms, especially in cases in which the individual is suffering from chronic pain.
In addition to emotional issues, it is common for people to experience a myriad of health problems that directly affect the intensity of their physical symptoms. Psychologists can help people learn relaxation techniques, such as meditation or breathing exercises. Others find it useful to teach patients how the body experiences pain in order for them to control certain bodily functions.
In addition to treatment, pain management strategies might include activities like light exercise, social visits, and distractions such as hobbies and outings, while being mindful of one's physical limitations. Social support can be especially important, as the help of family and friends has been shown to mitigate symptoms of depression and anxiety that may be experienced by those with chronic pain.