Counseling & Wellness Services (CWS)

Chronic Pain and Mental Health

Do I Have Chronic Pain?

You may be experiencing chronic pain if you are answering yes to the following questions:

  1. I have aches or pains in my body
  2. The pain I experience is there more often than not
  3. The pain I feel distracts or distresses me
  4. I have experienced this pain for a significant amount of time

(Rucker, 2001)

What are Common Psychological Problems Associated with Chronic Pain?

Feeling sad or blue may be associated with chronic pain. A person may have an external locus of control which means that they feel they do not have control over their lives. Additionally, a person may feel hopeless, paranoid, or nervous if they are in pain chronically.

What Should I Do if I Have Chronic Pain?

  1. If you are not already under the care of a doctor or team of doctors, you should seek medical attention first.
  2. Educate yourself about how different experiences/factors impact the pain you experience. If you look at the image above, you will see that pain may be related with other aspects such as mood, locus of control, and distress. The "pain" variable is the physical feeling you are experiencing. The "mood" variable relates to the emotions that you are experiencing (e.g., happy, sad, afraid, angry, hurt, etc.). The "locus of control" variable has to do with whether you feel that YOU have control over your life or whether control feels like it is external to you. The last dimension, "distress" has to do with how much the situation is disturbing you. Symptoms of distress may include feelings of worry or difficulty concentrating. Learning how these variables all influence each other may increase your awareness and help you to develop coping strategies for dealing with your pain.
  3. If you are under the care of a medical doctor, you can add a mental health component to your treatment. If you look at the above graph, you will see that pain may be interrelated with other aspects such as mood, locus of control, and distress. Seeking psychological care may help you to improve on these three aspects that influence your pain (Sternbach, 1986).


  • Hardy, P. (1997).Chronic Pain Management: The Essentials. Oxford University Press: London
  • Rucker, K. S. (2001) Chronic Pain Evaluation: A Valid, Standardized Assessment Instrument. Butterworth Heinmann:  Boston, MA
  • Sternberg, R. A. (1986) The Psychology of Pain. Raven Press Books Ltd.: New York

Link to additional information

This site was developed by Larina Kase, Psy.D.