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The Chronic Pain Stigma in the United States

Woman struggling with chronic pain

Living with chronic pain comes with constant emotional duress and physical discomfort. This alone can be a significant struggle for those living with this condition. However, there is another element to living with chronic pain that makes it all the more difficult. Many living with this condition tend to experience social isolation, often stemming from it being stigmatized. This stigmatization comes from many sources, ranging from fear to suspicion. This can lead to those who don’t live with chronic pain avoiding these individuals, leaving them socially isolated.

The Chronic Pain Problem in the United States

Over 20% of all adults in America suffer from a chronic pain condition. 8% live with conditions that heavily impact their day-to-day life. This accounts for nearly 50 million people in the United States. Of this demographic, women, the impoverished, and the elderly are highly represented. The impact of chronic pain is broader than most people realize. Disability programs, medical expenses, and lost work productivity create an impact of over $560 billion each year due to these conditions.

Further, there is evidence that the prominence of chronic pain conditions is rising. The reasons for this include more Americans living to a more advanced age. Our current generation is also more proactive about their medical conditions and is less likely to suffer with them quietly.

The stigmatization of chronic pain can be identified in a range of experiences, including:

  • Denial Of Pain – Those who suffer from chronic pain offer report difficulty being taken seriously by their physician. Many reports that they are often thought of as drug-seeking, and the reality of their pain is questioned by those charged to help them find relief. This reality came about, in part, due to the opioid epidemic.
  • Social Disbelief – Chronic pain sufferers often find themselves stigmatized by those around them. They may be told to suck it up, that they imagine it, or to “not be so negative.” This can lead to friends and even family members avoiding them. They often experience fewer invitations to social events, family gatherings, and other social activities.
  • Employment Issues – Those without disabilities often find that they struggle with employment. Chronic pain can make it difficult to perform successfully in their career. This can be due to pain interfering with work, reduced attendance due to sick days or doctor’s appointments, etc. 

Chronic pain is a genuine condition. Millions of Americans suffer from conditions like these every day. The pain they live with cannot be effectively controlled in many cases, though some relief is often available.  

Speak To Your Pain Management Specialist For Help

If you’re living with a chronic pain condition, your pain management specialist may be able to help. These experts work daily, helping individuals with chronic pain conditions find ways to live a fuller life. They can provide access to resources to accommodate your chronic pain, keep you informed on your rights as a chronic pain sufferer, and much more. Schedule a consultation with your specialist today to begin taking control of your life with chronic pain.

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