Is there an association between chronic pain and social rejection?

3 Answers
Last Updated: 06/05/2019 at 12:49am
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Lauren Gerardi, PhD


I am a licensed clinical psychologist who works with individuals of all ages, including children, teens, and adults.

Top Rated Answers
February 27th, 2018 12:31am
Yes there is - Chronic pain can be incredibly isolating for that person; nobody can see how much it hurts or really understand how the pain can take over other parts of their lives. When people are in constant pain it can affect things such as study, work or going out. This often has a knock on effect on relationships and can create loneliness.
April 7th, 2018 5:01am
Yes, to an extent. Sometimes the chronic pain makes it hard to maintain relationships because sometimes you can't participate with them because of the pain. There are people who will understand, especially if you explain it, and those are ultimately the ones that should matter the most. Social rejection is awful, but if you have a few understanding friends, it will be easier to deal with.
June 5th, 2019 12:49am
Yes. Both social rejection and loneliness have been shown to increase reported levels of pain and other symptoms. Rejection and isolation also often lead to decreased activity and fewer attempts at social interaction. It's very hard to consciously risk rejection - if you've been rejected, it's easier and feels safer to remain alone. This is especially true if your disability seems like it was all or part of the reason you were rejected. Feeling helpless and powerless are normal reactions to such rejections, as are shame and anger. It's not possible to control your disability but people with disabilities are often judged unfairly. That leads to lots of difficult feelings. It's hard not to judge ourselves in the same mean, irrational ways as others may, but it's very good to try. Social engagement and friendly encounters can reduce pain levels and even reduce how much medication you take. Even having a friendly interaction with the pharmacist or cashier can lessen feelings of rejection. Big thing is, chronic pain can be debilitating and, uh.. chronic. It's like a toddler demanding attention. Just not going to go away because you pretend it's not there. It's just get louder, the it'll start drawing of the walls and decorative the couch with applesauce. So, somehow, it's really vital to find a way to make friends with the toddler... oops, the pain. :) Accepting your body's insistent signals as real and important is good self-care. Learning to not overdo it, and what situations are likely to prompt you to do too much - being around people who don't accept your limitations, for instance - is also important. Eventually, you are likely to be able to engage more socially, with less fear, which is likely to help your symptoms, too. You'll do so with self-knowledge and self-respect. Healthy boundaries make a big difference in determining whether social encounters are draining & rejecting or enriching. 🐑