The Link Between Chronic Pain and Mental Health

The Link Between Chronic Pain and Mental Health

By Sabrina Brient.

Chronic pain is pain that is ongoing and lasts longer than expected after an injury, often three to six months. It is excruciating, intense and persistent. And often so are the emotions and impacts associated with chronic pain. It not only affects physical health, but also has a big impact on mental health, wellbeing, capacity to work and engage in activities, and relationships.


In fact, data in Australia shows that rates of poor mental health and suicide are higher amongst those with chronic pain. It has been associated with depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance use. Chronic pain is still not widely understood and is often difficult to diagnose, leading to frustration and feelings of hopelessness.


What can I do?


Treatment can be complex and varied, including medication, acupuncture, physiotherapy, exercise and therapy. When planning your treatment, it is important to make a plan that works for you, including the right professionals who you trust. Doing this can provide you with medical support, physical support as well as pain education and assistance in developing strategies to manage the impacts of chronic pain on your wellbeing and mental health.


Having a team around you can assist you in making a pain management plan. Whilst it is important to make a plan in consultation with professionals you trust, here are some basic tips:


  • Chronic pain may result in you not wanting to engage in activities. It can make a significant difference to find and participate in activities that you enjoy. However, it is important to pace yourself and take breaks when needed.


  • Gentle exercise and movement can help to boost mood and decrease anxiety and depression associated with chronic pain.


  • Pain can make us want to stay home, but staying connected with family and friends will help to protect us from depression and the worsening of pain.


  • Being part of a community can also help. Consider joining a chronic pain support group of people who are experiencing similar things, and may have stories or strategies to share.


  • Stress can worsen pain which can, in turn, increase the impact on your mental health. Engaging in mindfulness and other techniques like yoga, grounding, progressive muscle relaxation and breathing can help with stress and pain management.


  • Small steps and changes can help. Focus on staying healthy where you can and making small steps such as having a good sleep routine, eating healthy and staying hydrated.


  • Ensure that the use of medication to manage pain is done in consultation with your GP and try to avoid things like alcohol as a pain management strategy.


Intense and persistent pain can lead to suicidal thoughts. If you are having suicidal thoughts or feeling depressed, please reach out for support with one of the following helplines:


Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636


Lifeline: 13 11 14


Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467


Chronic pain can feel hopeless, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start. But the treatment, whilst complex, can be effective when a plan is made with the right professionals.


A good place to start is a GP you know and trust. If unsure where to start, the following websites might be helpful:


Australian Pain Management Association (APMA),


Pain Australia,


Chronic Pain Australia,

This blog was written by Sabrina Brient, to learn more about Sabrina’s experience, click here.

To book an appointment with Sabrina or one of our other Psychologists, click here

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