7 Tips to Control Your Mood When You're in Pain

When you live with chronic pain, it's easy to feel cranky and hard to see the glass as half full. Mood and pain are strongly connected. Controlling your mood however, is essential to dealing with pain. Both will get worse if you let your mood dominate your life or alienate the people you share it with. We've got tips for how to control mood when you're in pain.

Countless studies connect mood, depression and chronic pain. About 30 to 50 percent of patients who live with chronic pain become clinically depressed.  Even those who are naturally upbeat are likely to become gloomy and anxious when pain is their constant companion.  Many life factors are heavily influenced by pain, including family relationships, sex life, job performance and status, ability to participate in exercise and social activities. Pain puts a damper on one's ability to enjoy life.

How to Control Your Mood

1. If "bad" has become your baseline mood, talk to your doctor about depression and anxiety. There are many effective medications and therapies to treat depression. You owe it to yourself and your family to deal with it.

2. Talk to friends and family about how pain makes you feel. Let them know, it's the pain, not the person that's causing your crankiness. A little information goes a long way towards helping people understand and be patient.

3. If your bad mood happens only when your pain spikes, evaluate what increases your pain and how you can prevent it. For example, if your back pain is worse at work and that makes you irritable with your coworkers, evaluate how you can change your work environment to minimize pain.

4. Talk to your doctor about your pain medication. You may not be taking the right one or in the best ways to treat pain properly. For example, if your arthritis-affected hands are most painful in the morning when your family needs you most; this might make you feel frustrated. Try getting up earlier to let your pain medicine kick in before you deal with family matters.

5. Change the way you think. Cognitive behavior therapy and meditation are both effective techniques for changing your outlook about pain.

  • CBT helps people change the way they think about something (for example a painful or anxious situation).  When they alter how they think, they change how they feel. 
  • Meditation teaches people to be mindful and stay in the moment, rather than worry about what might happen later.  It helps patients realize their pain and mood is just a moment, not something that lasts forever.

6. Learn to recognize your mood, evaluate what's influencing it and change what you can. For example, when you notice you're feeling irritable; ask yourself what else you might be feeling. Does your head hurt? Is your backache worse? Is your chronic pain increasing? Maybe you're overdue for pain medication. Maybe you're hungry, tired or just overwhelmed.

7. Do what you can
to decrease your uncomfortable feelings like: Take your medicine, take a break, grab a snack, change positions or go for a walk.


National Pain Foundation

Pain, Depression and Mood


Arthritis Foundation

Regulating Mood to Lessen Pain