Managing the Psychological Effects of Pain

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Pain can affect you not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. After you are first diagnosed, you may worry about the possibility of experiencing pain due to treatments or the cancer itself — and any feelings of pain may make you nervous that the cancer has come back or gotten worse. Even when pain is well-controlled, you may find it difficult to stop thinking about the possibility of future episodes of pain or discomfort. At times, the pain itself and medication side effects may keep you from activities you need or want to do, which can be discouraging and frustrating. You may be someone who finds it hard to talk about your pain with family members and friends, either because you want to protect them or you fear being labeled a "complainer."

For these and a host of other reasons, pain can cause some people to feel anxious and out of control at times. You can take control by telling your doctors and nurses about any pain you experience and asking for the treatment you need. Ask for their guidance in telling the difference between pain that is an expected result of cancer treatment and pain that may signal a more serious problem. You also may benefit from complementary and holistic techniques that focus on promoting a sense of relaxation and mental calmness, such as:

If at any point you feel overwhelmed by depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe an antidepressant medication that can help with these feelings while also relieving pain and improving sleep. You may find it helpful to meet with a counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist who specializes in helping people with cancer. You also may benefit from palliative care, a team-based approach in which a group of health professionals focus on relieving the pain, anxiety, and stress that cancer can cause.

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