Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Take an Emotional Toll, Too

Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Take an Emotional Toll, Too

Kayal Rheumatology Center Understands Your Pain

Living with the persistent, crippling pain of rheumatoid arthritis is exhausting—not just physically but emotionally. Often, it can be difficult—if not impossible—to stay positive and cheerful. However, it’s important for those who suffer from this disease to avoid falling into the trap of constantly thinking negative thoughts and expecting the worst to happen.

This type of thinking is called catastrophizing. At Kayal Rheumatology Center, we have seen all too often how catastrophizing can make physical pain worse. Our rheumatology specialists in Bergen County have the skills and experience to conquer your physical pain as well as the compassion to understand the emotional hurdles you face. Our caring staff is here to help you find any emotional support you might need.

Catastrophizing works like this: Your arthritis starts to flare up, this time causing excruciating pain in the joints of your knees. You’re in so much pain that you can hardly move. Your mind kicks into overdrive. I will never be able to do the things I enjoy—running, hiking, biking, swimming and playing ball with the kids. Soon, I’ll be stuck in this house in a wheelchair—for good.

People who catastrophize focus on a negative event, spinning it out of control until all they can envision is the worst possible outcome. This kind of thinking takes a terrible toll on your emotional wellbeing. But experts believe catastrophizing can be detrimental to your physical health, as well, leading to increased pain. That’s partly because feeling anxious, depressed or engaging in catastrophic thinking affects your central nervous system.

Focusing on your pain can make it worse for other reasons, too. When you are consumed by negative thoughts and worst-case scenarios, you are more likely to give up doing the things you enjoy. Staying active can help manage your pain. Inactivity can exacerbate it.

According to a 2017 study in Arthritis Care & Research that included more than 200 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, those who catastrophized were less likely to experience remission than those who did not worry so much about their pain.

Of course, no one wants to have negative thoughts that complicate their physical problems. So you should never blame yourself when you struggle with these thoughts. Sometimes it can be hard to prevent them from swirling through your mind, especially when you don’t feel well. Some strategies that have proven to be effective include: engaging in hobbies or interests that distract you, using relaxation exercises, immersing yourself in physical activities or finding other ways to take your mind off of your pain.

Here are five tips that can help prevent catastrophizing:

  1. Get enough sleep. Improving the quality of your sleep can reduce your pain and reduce catastrophizing.
  2. Learn to make adjustments. Try not to let pain prevent you from being active. Often, modifying activities to make them safer allows you to stay active.
  3. Meditate. This can help you focus on the here and now and train your mind not to wander.
  4. Embrace the grays. Don’t get bogged down in black-and-white thinking. Give yourself permission to acknowledge that there are rough patches in life, but also smooth stretches ahead.
  5. Don’t be afraid to get help. If you can’t control negative thinking, consider making an appointment with a mental health provider. These trained professionals can provide coping skills and other support.

When you fill your mind with positive thoughts, it can have the opposite effect. It can help reduce your pain and improve your overall health.

The team at Kayal Rheumatology Center cares about you. We are the skilled and experienced experts you can rely on when you’re seeking answers or have already received a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis in Bergen County. Call us at 844.777.0910 or contact us on the web.