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You suffered an injury that won't heal or wear-and-tear on the body over time. You're experiencing pain all the time, whether in one location or all over your body. You've tried everything, like medication, physical therapy, creams, massages, and more. Yet, you're still in pain. You're unable to focus on anything else, and the pain just gets worse. You're cancelling plans when the pain flares up. You don't even make plans anymore. You feel down and depressed. You stop movement and exercise for fear of causing more harm and more pain. You believe you can't do anything anymore. You spend a lot of time sitting on the couch or lying in bed, ruminating on the good 'ole days when you were pain free.
Chronic pain effects an estimated one in five U.S. adults. You might be wondering why you would see a psychologist for a physical condition like chronic pain. While your pain IS REAL and you feel it in your body, the sensation of pain in the body is actually occurring in the brain. Research using brain imaging shows that the same areas of the brain that light up when you are in physical pain also light up when you are in emotional pain. Furthermore, your brain can actually learn pain the more you focus on it. Your body can also learn to send false pain signals to the brain, even when there is no injury or harm. It's no wonder chronic pain is highly co-morbid with mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
While therapy may not be able to take your pain completely away, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain (CBT-CP) is an evidence-based treatment that has been shown to be effective in decreasing pain and improving quality of life. Those who have completed CBT-CP have also been shown to have better outcomes with medical treatments and procedures for chronic pain. In addition, mindfulness and self-compassion approaches teach you acceptance and letting go of your struggles with pain so you can focus on the things that matter to you.