Individuals with chronic pain and illness not only suffer physically — they often suffer emotionally. Emotional pain can range from anger and grief, to feeling emotionally numb, to clinical depression.

Chronic illness can limit a person’s life by undermining one’s ability to work, maintain strong social relationships and engage in recreational activities. Understandably, losing one’s financial or social independence also can cause or magnify emotional problems.

On the other hand, sometimes an event that wounds a person emotionally (for example, experiencing neglect and verbal abuse as a child) can, over time, result in serious physical pain and illness. This sequence, where emotional pain eventually manifests as physical pain, is more likely to occur when the individual does not consciously remember, recognize or appreciate the emotional impact of the initial trauma. The traumatic event, especially when it occurs during the pre-verbal phase of a child’s development, can set off the body’s chronic “fight or flight” response. Years of maintaining this hyper-vigilant state can exhaust a person’s immune system, hormone balance and neural pathways and, eventually, lead to or exacerbate chronic illness or a chronic pain syndrome.

Because emotions and physical health are so intimately connected, our physicians pay close attention to their patients’ emotional well-being. If a patient needs and wants to address the emotional components of their pain, the Kaplan Center has a variety of services available.

The Kaplan Center’s psychotherapist uses a cognitive-behavioral protocol to evaluate a patient’s thought processes and help change negative thoughts, manage stress more effectively, and cope with family and interpersonal issues that might be exacerbating the pain symptoms. This therapeutic approach strives to help patients both resolve their emotional pain and learn ways to reduce their perception of physical pain, including the frequency, intensity and quality of painful sensations.

In addition to working one-on-one with patients, The Kaplan Center also offers periodic meditation & yoga classes and a free weekly drop-in meditation class for all levels. These programs are based on medical research demonstrating that stress reduction can improve immune function which, in turn, can help reduce a person’s frequency of infections (colds and flu), improve sleep, improve energy, accelerate healing from injuries and surgeries, and help people suffering from chronic pain use less medication to manage their pain and re-engage in more active, fulfilling lives.