Addressing the Psychological Impact of Chronic Pain

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March 8th, 2017

Link between our bodies and our emotions

In part one of our chronic pain blog series we discussed the psychological aspects of living with chronic pain and how the link between our bodies and emotions is not always apparent. For example, when a person with chronic pain informs their general practitioner or a member of their care team that they are feeling low, they may not identify with a diagnosis of “depression” or “anxiety” as they may not realise the extent to which their condition is impacting their mood.

In other cases, these feelings can also get brushed aside by the person experiencing them, as they may view them as less important when compared with the physical pain they experience on a regular basis. However, the extent to which low mood and anxiety can compound existing difficulties and add further complications to a person’s life cannot be underestimated. 

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Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as a treatment for chronic pain

Recognising and acknowledging the psychological impact of chronic pain is a key factor in the grand scheme of long-term condition management. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has proven itself effective in both identifying and managing emotional distress that is all too often common when living with chronic conditions. The impact of emotions on our bodies and the associated behaviours is a focus throughout CBT based programmes for individuals living with long-term conditions (LTCs) such as our own LTC programmes at SilverCloud Health.

SilverCloud Health online CBT programmes are built around a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) framework which uses thought-feeling-behaviour (TFB) cycles to explore the experience of the individual living with chronic pain. TFB cycles enable reflection on the thoughts, feelings and behaviours associated with a specific situation, and also allow for these to be mapped out. By reflecting on TFB cycles, the user can see how these are related, and may also be able to approach problematic thinking patterns.

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iCBT programme for chronic pain

Research undertaken by SilverCloud Health and other prominent researchers in the field of online interventions has shown that when therapeutic content is relevant to the experience of the programme user, it is more engaging (Doherty, G., Coyle, D., Sharry, J., 2012). Learning from this, SilverCloud Health content has been tailored to reflect and be sensitive to the symptoms, limitations and experience of someone living with chronic pain.

In tailoring SilverCloud Health’s programmes to address the low mood and anxious feelings that can occur when living with chronic pain, the programme content has been adjusted to reflect real life chronic pain related stories, symptoms, situations and experiences. Ultimately the aim of our iCBT programmes for LTCs is not to cure the physical aspects but to help people effectively manage the psychological effects of the LTC. If you are interested in finding out more about our CBT based Space in Chronic Pain from Depression & Anxiety please do drop us an email

Author: Daniel Duffy, Clinical Trials Associate, SilverCloud Health.

References:

Doherty, G., Coyle, D., Sharry, J. (2012) Engagement with online mental health interventions: An exploratory study of a treatment for depression.