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Conditioned Fear: The Frightening Consequence of Chronic Pain

Pain is an indicator of a threat as well as a trigger of protective behavior caused by fear. An individual undergoing pain will automatically get the urge to avoid or escape it as a self-preservation measure.

The pain cycle can be classified into four stages:

Acquisition: The threats associated with pain results in fear that triggers adaptive learning. The experience may lead to conditioned responses such as safety-seeking or avoidance.

Generalization: Persistence of pain-related fear may facilitate the development of chronic pain. This can lead to generalizing of protective responses to adverse situations of grief.

Avoidance: This reaction serves to protect the individual from harmful stimuli. However, once acquired, avoidance behavior may be notoriously persistent, hence maintaining the pain-related fear. The action promotes negative effect by altering positive activities, which fuels the maintenance of pain.
Extinction of pain: Prioritizing optimism over pain-associated adverse effects will ultimately break the pain cycle. Optimism may result in omission of avoidance behavior, making the individual learn inhibitory responses.

Prolonged pain has adverse effects. Most of these effects are triggered by fear of pain, which can be a key factor in development and maintenance of disability and chronic pain. These effects include anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Anxiety disorder
Chronic pain sufferers have higher chances of having anxiety disorders. These pains usually bring about depression to the patient as they may lack sleep or even face stigma. It is important for clinicians to assess patients for psychological factors.
Chronic pain accompanied by anxiety disorder can be difficult to treat. Such patients have a lower pain tolerance and may be more sensitive to the side effects of medications than patients without anxiety. Treatment can be through drugs, cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques and complementary treatment such as yoga.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Most patients who have post-traumatic stress disorder have a prevalence of digestive, circulatory, musculoskeletal, and nervous system diseases. There is also a noticeable co-occurrence of chronic pain in PTSD patients. The pain experienced by these patients is worse than their counterparts. This scenario is fueled by their exposure to psychological stress.

Both chronic pain and PTSD sufferers are stigmatized by the general community. The community perceives them as victims of their own actions. This mostly results from the existential and esoteric nature of both kinds of patients. Models that offer integrated treatments for both PSTD and chronic pain are available in healthcare facilities.

Pain management requires an efficient and innovative service provider. The specialist should be trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating any form of chronic pain. Do you need specialized treatment? Contact the Pain Care Clinic of Idaho for a pain-free life.

 

Posted In: Blog
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