Mental health and physical health are tightly connected. In this video Dr. Pek Ang explains what role he as a psychiatrist plays in helping patients manage their pain.
We constantly say that chronic pain is complex because to treat pain effectively, we must address the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects.
Dr. Pek Ang from Newcastle Mood Clinic is a Newcastle psychiatrist with over a decade worth of experience in the field, specialising in a variety of mood disorders and other health issues. For this video series, Dr. Pek Ang will be explaining the role psychiatrists play when managing pain.
Hi, I am Dr. Pek Ang. I'm a psychiatrist at the Newcastle Mood Clinic. A lot of my patients ask me why or how a psychiatrist can help with patients with chronic pain. Now, chronic pain is a very difficult condition to deal with. We all know what acute pain is like, but chronic pain is a whole new entity. So the best way for me to help you with that is to give you an example of what can happen.
As you know, that simple pain experience is something that's universal. We all have that, but it's when the pain doesn't go away and we think it should have by now. And usually it drags on. You have all the treatment, you do all the right things, but still it doesn't go away for some reason. Maybe the test results are normal, maybe the test results are abnormal. Either way, the pain just drags on and on.
As you get more concerned, you start losing sleep about it, you start getting more anxious about it. And then you might even consider relieving yourself with other things like alcohol and cigarettes, and even other drugs if you like. These things help only as bandaid therapies, even pain tablets that you might be prescribed. But at the end of the day, things are not getting any better, so you're starting to get desperate.
And so that might be a time when you might be referred to a chronic pain service for which there's the pain specialist, but other very important health professionals in there, including the physios, but also psychologists and psychiatrists. Now, the psychologists' and psychiatrists' role there is to help with understanding that this is a very complex life situation, and also that when you are anxious or stressed, your brain cannot relax. And without that, it perpetuates a windup effect of the pain, in fact, amplifying it.
And so the only way to actually reverse this is actually slow the brain down and actually calm it down through strategies that the psychologist would teach you, but also at times, that's not enough. And that's where a psychiatrist might be very helpful in providing certain treatments, including medications that can help relax the brain, improve your sleep, relax the anxiety and agitation that you're feeling.
So in the situation where you may be referred to a psychologist, a psychiatrist, don't feel that there's something wrong with you and that people are thinking that it's all in your head. Even if it is in your head, it's in your brain actually. But it's actually a normal part of modern day pain management, which looks at the whole person holistically realising that the brain and the body are intricately connected. Without settling the brain down, it's very hard to settle the pain down. So please take the opportunity to accept that referral and understand that they're there to help you.
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