Mental Health Management When Going Through Chronic Conditions

Our conditions flare-up sometimes. Sometimes with no rhyme or reasons. Unfortunately. flare-ups of any kind are an inconvenience at the very least and debilitating at the most. It feels as if there are no treatments that help. 

Chronic pain isn’t just a physical condition—it’s an emotional one as well that has tremendous influence over a person’s thoughts and moods. People with chronic pain may isolate themselves from others or be unable to achieve the mobility they once had. Chronic pain isn’t just associated with physical injuries either, as it can stem from conditions like heart disease, arthritis, migraines, or diabetes.

You are not alone


It’s common for your condition to flare-up, making your symptoms suddenly worse. A flare-up can appear suddenly and various factors can trigger it. It’s not always clear why a flare-up happens.  In time, flare-ups may become more frequent and symptoms can start to affect your mobility and quality of life.

 If you’re going through a flare-up, it’s important that you look after yourself and have people onboard to support you. You need to take time to look after yourself, and to remember that your health is what’s most important. 

At some time in our lives we will all experience pain—physical and/or emotional discomfort caused by illness, injury, or an upsetting event. Though most of us would rather avoid it, pain does serve an actual purpose that is good and seen as “protective.” For example, when you experience pain your brain signals you to stop doing whatever is causing the pain, preventing further harm to your body.

Pain, however, is not meant to last for a long time. Pain that typically lasts less than 3 to 6 months is called acute pain, which is the form of pain most of us experience. For some people, pain can be ongoing or go away and then come back, lasting beyond the usual course of 3 to 6 months and negatively affecting a person’s well-being. This is called chronic pain or persistent pain. Put simply, chronic or persistent pain is pain that continues when it should not.

Chronic pain is physically and psychologically stressful and its constant discomfort can lead to anger and frustration with yourself and your loved ones.


How it affects our mental health

Living with daily pain is physically and emotionally stressful. Chronic stress is known to change the levels of stress hormones and neurochemicals found within your brain and nervous system; these can affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Disrupting your body’s balance of these chemicals can bring on depression in some people.

There are several ways chronic pain associated with these conditions can interfere with your everyday life. It can affect your ability to function at home and work. You may find it difficult to participate in social activities and hobbies, which could lead to decreased self-esteem. It is also common for people with chronic pain to have sleep disturbances, fatigue, trouble concentrating, decreased appetite, and mood changes. These negative changes in your lifestyle can increase your pain and dampen your overall mood; the frustration of dealing with this can result in depression and anxiety.

Although depression can further debilitate people with chronic pain, these people may be less likely to recognize and talk about symptoms of depression with their doctor. In fact, half of all depressed persons who visit the doctor only complain about physical symptoms. Because both pain and depression make each other difficult to treat, it’s important to address both when evaluating treatment options.


For some people, the stress and depression resulting from chronic pain can become consuming, and have the potential to significantly worsen and prolong the pain. Increased pain can, in turn, lead to increased stress and depression, creating a cycle of depression and pain that can be difficult to break.

There have been many studies on chronic pain patients and mental health issues, and most find a very strong link between the conditions.  The studies found from 10 to 87 percent of chronic pain patients had depressive symptoms, while almost half of all male chronic pain patients and two-thirds of female chronic pain patients also exhibited anxiety.


There are many reasons why mental health and chronic pain conditions are so closely linked. First of all, many of the neural pathways used in processing chronic pain are also used for anxiety, depression and grief. Over a long period of time, the brain may conflate the two experiences, making it almost impossible to distinguish between them.

Secondly, chronic pain also has some profound behavioral and social effects that feed into mental health conditions. Long-term chronic pain produces social isolation that augments problems like depression and anxiety.  This isolation is caused by loss of enjoyment in many activities and changes in behavior. These behavioral changes can harm relationships, both social and professional. This deterioration of professional and social networks can damage mental and emotional health.

Finally, there are some serious psychological effects from sustained use of potent pain killers.  Drugs like opioids and benzodiazepines interfere with normal cognitive processes as well as pain impulse transmission. They can distort thinking, heighten depression and encourage isolation.

Due to the prevalence of chronic pain and mental illness in the U.S., we are developing a much fuller understanding of these conditions. In turn, we are learning how to implement a holistic approach to treatment of these intertwined issues.

Coping with how you feel

Several medical treatments may be used to alleviate chronic pain, including over-the-counter or prescription medication, physical therapy, and less utilized treatments, such as surgery. However, these options are only a few of the pieces necessary to solve the puzzle of chronic pain. Mental and emotional wellness is equally important—psychological techniques and therapy help build resilience and teach the necessary skills for management of chronic pain.

Many of these treatment options can be implemented independently, but most will require some assistance from a healthcare professional.  The first step, of course, is to see your primary care physician who can refer you to a pain specialist and mental health professional.  You may want your primary care doctor to coordinate your team, or you may choose another specialist to take up that role.

With the help and guidance from your care team, you should try some techniques for managing chronic pain and boosting emotional health.  Not all of these methods may work, and many will not produce immediate results.  However, your care team should carefully monitor your progress and help you decide on which strategies to maintain.

The relationship between our diet and our mental health is complex. However, research shows a link between what we eat and how we feel.

Our diet can affect our brain


Some foods can help us feel better. 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions. 

Beyond mood and general well-being, the role of diet and nutrition on mental health is very complex and has yet to be fully understood. However, research linking the two is growing at a rapid rate. In recent years, evidence shows that food can contribute to the development, prevention, and management of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders.

To boost your mental health, focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables along with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon. Dark green leafy vegetables in particular are brain protective. Nuts, seeds and legumes, such as beans and lentils, are also excellent brain foods.

Paying attention to how you feel when you eat, and what you eat, is one of the first steps in making sure you’re getting well-balanced meals and snacks.

In a world filled with work stress and unhealthy food, superfoods play a vital role in countering the effects of unhealthy lifestyles. Due to the abundance of unhealthy food and because they are quicker to prepare, people usually take the unhealthy option when it comes to their diet. This often results in illnesses and diseases that have long-term health consequences. Having superfoods in one's diet, therefore, is a step towards a healthier and longer life.

There are a lot of people out there with chronic diseases and not-so-great mental health that comes with it, but changing your diet can be the first start to helping manage it. First of all, you want to avoid certain things that can make your condition worse, including high amounts of sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. Next, try to add more of the following superfoods to your diet.


Superfood Solution

Superfoods is a collective term used to refer to natural foods rich in nutrients and are beneficial for a person's health. These include fruits, vegetables, seeds, and grains. What sets superfoods apart from regular healthy foods is that the former have ten or more nutritional properties while the latter have only two to three. Superfoods generally contain a large percentage of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and other substances that contribute to a healthy body.

There are many types of superfoods, and they each offer several benefits to the human body.


Turmeric also has a history of medicinal use. It contains an active compound, curcumin, that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants like curcumin scavenge free radicals that create inflammation. By reducing oxidative stress, they can also reduce inflammation. Recent studies have made a connection between depression and chronic inflammation.

Research has found that curcumin has the potential to improve a number of health conditions — including depression. This includes mild depression and even major depressive disorder (MDD). Curcumin, the bioactive compound found in turmeric, has been linked to treating anxiety, and more — possibly due to it boosting serotonin and dopamine levels. Research has suggested that it may actually be just as effective as Prozac with far fewer side effects. 


Moringa oleifera, often called the "miracle tree" is one of nature's most incredible gifts to mankind. It's dense nutritional value is matched by virtually no other plant, and the list of health benefits continues to rise as more research is put into discovering how truly amazing moringa can be.

Its high content of vitamins E and C fight oxidation that leads to neuron degeneration, improving brain function and mental health. It’s also able to normalize the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline in the brain, which play a key role in memory, mood, organ function, responses to stimulus such as stress and pleasure, and mental health, for example in depression and psychosis.

Infections and injuries usually lead to inflammation. Moringa can help reduce inflammation by healing injuries and fighting off harmful pathogens. While it is your body’s natural protective response to various ailments, chronic inflammation can create further complications in your body.



A superfood on the list for depression is spirulina. This is one of the more unique and lesser known superfoods on the list. Spirulina is a type of blue green algae. It is made up almost completely of protein, nearly three times more than poultry or fish. Spirulina also has no cholesterol, but lots of nutrients like omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, beta carotene, iron, and antioxidants.

Start associating self-discipline with inner strength, courage, inner strength, and not giving in to harmful habits, laziness and procrastination. This skill can help you gain more control over your life, your actions and your reactions.

When you have depression, you are often lacking in both strength and energy. It zaps nearly everything you have, making it hard just to get out of bed. Foods like spirulina are perfect when this is one of your biggest side effects of depression.

Achieving optimal health through food and nutrition is about more than focusing on one or two of the latest food trends.

There are so many people going through the same thing as you right now, and it can be a great thing to hear from someone with experience, who may be able to offer you the support and knowledge you need right now.