Catastrophic Thinking and Chronic Pain

Last week I saw my Endometriosis Specialist where we discussed the next steps to try and ease my Endo/Adeno pain. I told him about the great pelvic pain program I’m attending where they teach you the skills needed to get through the debilitating pain and to be able to lower the volume of the pain we endure daily.

He told me that he’s been hearing great things about that program and said, “Don’t be offended when I say this but, it seems like the program is a good tool to help you reduce ‘catastrophizing’ during flares”.

My response was ‘Yes, it definitely has! Why would I get offended?”.

He told me that when he uses the word ‘catastrophizing’ many patients feel as though he’s telling them the pain is brought on by their emotions. When that is obviously not the case, however, negative thoughts can amplify pain sensations.

If he were to use that word a year ago, he is right, I probably would have been offended. But now I’m aware that when dealing with chronic, debilitating pain, it takes a toll on your mental health. The pain cycle creates a constant hostile and negative cloud above you that is difficult to shake. Your mind is in a state of chaos and fear of it never ending so you begin to think the worst. (If you are reading this and are feeling that, this is not your fault. It’s normal and natural for any human to feel that emotion when dealing with chronic illness and pain.)

A year of bad flare after bad flare, brought me to a place where all my worst fears and the catastrophic “what if this happens” thoughts began to control my life and decisions. I knew I didn’t want to live a life of pain AND be miserable at the same time, so I began learning mindfulness. After a few months of trying it out and learning that my thoughts are JUST thoughts, I started seeing things in a different light. I became aware that even before I got sick, I was catastrophic thinking so my thoughts were easily swayed into that thought process when feeling pain.

I haven’t mastered this completely and I still have bad days but I want to share with you guys a few steps for when the negative stressful thoughts try to take control of your life. It won’t happen overnight but if you keep these steps in mind, you’re well on your way to living a happier life even with pain and chronic illness.

  1. Recognize that worrying is not helping you, but draining your energy and stressing you out which increases your pain.
  2. Start noticing when you’re having the negative thought and give yourself permission to stop. Remind yourself regularly.
  3. Practice 10-20 minutes of mindfulness meditation to teach yourself how to let go of thoughts.
  4. Make the distinction between a real problem and an imagined scenario that hasn’t happened yet.
  5. Be patient and kind to yourself. Learning how to let go takes time.

M.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Catastrophic Thinking and Chronic Pain

  1. This is so true. Often my own worries about the future and my illness (bladder related) or worse than my actual experience during the day. Plus my own worries lead me to flaring! When I could just be trying to live more mindfully and enjoy each day for what it is. Beautiful VERY HELPFUL post! Thank you!

  2. So true. During a flare, I envision the future and not being able to do what I want and being In pain and so isolated because of it. Thank you

Leave a Reply