The 'Patient' Identity

Redefining yourself and overcoming chronic pain

Living with chronic pain can be an incredibly challenging and isolating experience. Over time, pain may gradually become a defining aspect of your identity, overshadowing other aspects of your life, such as job titles, hobbies, and personal accomplishments. You may find yourself labeled as a "pain patient," which can have a significant impact on your self-perception and overall well-being.

This response to chronic pain is a natural one, and it serves multiple purposes. People living with pain often face judgment, guilt, and even shame due to the limitations imposed by their condition. Identifying as a "pain patient" can help justify these limitations and provide a sense of recognition. After all, overcoming the adversity of living with a chronic condition is a genuine achievement.

Subconsciously, we may cling to the "pain patient" identity as a means to explain ourselves, our lives, and our place in the world. However, the problem with this identity is that it can reinforce the need for your brain to produce pain. If pain is an integral part of who you are, why would your brain ever stop producing it?

To break free from the "pain patient" identity and overcome chronic pain, it's essential to redefine yourself and adopt a more holistic view of your identity.

Practical strategies

Acknowledge your accomplishments and strengths

Remind yourself of your achievements, both before and during your experience with pain. Recognize the resilience and determination you've shown in coping with your condition. This can help build a more positive self-image that extends beyond the "pain patient" label.

Pursue hobbies and interests

Engage in activities you enjoy or explore new hobbies. This can help you develop a broader sense of self and discover new aspects of your identity. Focusing on interests outside of pain can also serve as a distraction and provide relief from chronic pain.

Connect with others

Building and maintaining social connections can help counteract feelings of isolation and provide emotional support. Engage with friends, family, or support groups to share experiences and foster a sense of belonging. This can help you redefine your identity as part of a larger community, rather than solely as a "pain patient."

Seek professional help

A therapist or counselor can help you work through the emotional challenges of living with chronic pain and assist you in developing a more balanced self-image. They can also provide guidance and support in coping strategies and techniques to manage pain more effectively.

Practice self-compassion

Understand that living with chronic pain is difficult, and it's natural to seek an explanation for your experience. Be kind to yourself as you work to redefine your identity and overcome the challenges that come with pain.