Many patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) will experience psychological effects. Due to the chronic, intense pain associated with CRPS, many individuals have difficulty coping with daily symptoms. This can lead to emotional distress such as depression and anxiety. In a social context, CRPS patients may have difficulty functioning effectively in an occupational setting. Overall, the patient’s quality of life may be reduced.
Depression and anxiety are psychological effects often experienced by CRPS patients. Studies have been conducted to attempt to determine the specific effects of CRPS on pain and vice versa. Evidence shows that pain levels during a certain day significantly affected depressed mood the next day.
Patients with CRPS may experience psychological symptoms such as, but not limited to:
- Less confidence in personal and professional endeavors
- Difficulty relaxing and detaching from stress
- Feelings of inability to cope with daily life as well as problems and issues
- Difficulty accepting or receiving support from loved ones, colleagues, and medical professionals
Impact of Others
In many cases, CRPS does not present observable symptoms. This can lead to negative support from others who do not lend credibility or belief to a patient’s claim of pain. Health care providers, family members, colleagues, and friends are examples of individuals whose doubt can cast a harmful shadow on CRPS patients. Health care providers may have a significant influence on patient emotional effects, as these individuals play a critical role in diagnosis, treatment, and coping with the disorder. When a patient does not receive support from medical professionals, the condition can be daunting.
Many individuals with CRPS may have difficulty coping with daily life and social interactions. The pain caused by CRPS may cause patients to become introverted as they willingly isolate themselves from others. CRPS can cause an inability to focus and concentrate. As a result, patients may have difficulty maintaining productivity in the workplace, as well as in personal endeavors.
Psychosocial Effects in Adolescents
Research shows that adolescents and young adults may be more susceptible to psychological harm resulting from CRPS. Some believe that this indicates that CRPS is a stress-related disorder, where pain symptoms are a cause rather than an effect of the condition. Others believe that adolescence is an innately vulnerable period of physical and emotional growth, and therefore adolescents may simply be less capable of adapting to and coping with the physical, social, and emotional impact of CRPS.
In general, children respond to pain in different ways than adults. There are differences in issues such as imagined and real fears and losses, difference in coping, dependency levels, and differences in pain thresholds. For these reasons, it is especially important to help adolescents with CRPS to better cope with the condition and avoid maladaptive behavior which may hinder recovery and stability.
Debate over CRPS Causes
There exists debate over whether or not CRPS is a legitimate chronic pain condition versus a result of a patient’s psychiatric state. Studies have been conducted regarding predispositions and personality traits that may cause patients to develop the disorder. In other words, many believe that CRPS may be psychosomatic, or caused by mental or emotional issues as opposed to legitimate physical issues.
CRPS Physical Evidence
While some may continue to believe that CRPS is psychosomatic on a case-by-case basis, the theory that the condition is entirely psychosomatic has been widely discredited. Research shows that patients with CRPS undergo physical changes to the nervous system and the bones, joints, muscles, and nerves in the affected area. This evidence suggests that CRPS as a purely psychosomatic disorder is highly unlikely.
“CRPS Type I and Mental Illness.” Psychiatric Times 1 Dec. 2006: 82. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
Marinus, Johan, and Jacobus Van Hilten. “Clinical Expression Profiles of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and A-Specific Repetitive Strain Injury: More Common Denominators than Pain?” Disability & Rehabilitation 28.6 (2006): 351-362. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.