Chronic Pain and Anxiety

By Chris Hoare

Two manifestations of a similar issue

Pain and anxiety are two of the most prevalent and debilitating conditions that individuals face today. While they may seem like very different experiences, it's interesting to notice the striking similarities between chronic pain and uncontrolled anxiety. Both conditions, often seen as distressing and overwhelming, are actually protective mechanisms that our minds  have evolved to keep us safe.

The Protective Nature of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain, generally defined as pain that lasts for more than three months, is often viewed as a malfunction of the body. However, it's essential to recognize that pain, in its essence, is a protective mechanism. Pain is our brain’s way of helping us avoid further injury or harm. It serves as a warning system, prompting us to take action and seek help when necessary. In this way, chronic pain can be seen as the brain’s persistent effort to protect itself from potential threats, even if the pain persists longer than it should.

The Evolutionary Perspective on Anxiety

Similarly, anxiety is another mechanism that has evolved to protect us. Anxiety is the brain’s  way of preparing for danger by activating the "fight or flight" response. When faced with a potential threat, anxiety triggers a surge of adrenaline and heightened awareness, allowing us to react quickly to stay safe. This reaction was incredibly beneficial for our ancestors, who faced constant physical dangers in their environment. In modern times, those original threats may no longer exist, but anxiety still plays its protective role by helping us anticipate and respond to various challenges.

Uncontrolled Anxiety: A Misguided Protector

While anxiety and chronic pain are meant to be protective mechanisms, they can become problematic when they persist or become uncontrolled. Just as chronic pain can continue long after the initial injury has healed, uncontrolled anxiety can linger far beyond the immediate threat. These protective mechanisms may start working against us, impacting our daily lives and overall well-being. Both can be likened to a smoke alarm that simply will not stop beeping, even though there is no fire, and all you did was burn the toast!

Our Solution

Having adopted this approach to anxiety and pain, as hypnotherapists we have a roadmap that allows us to find a solution to both. Because both problems are generated by the brain it can be a fairly rapid process to turn them off. If necessary, the original causes can be explored and any emotional baggage can be discarded. The result can be life-changing.