Chronic pain and suicidal thoughts are more common than many realize. Chronic pain sufferers describe a sense of feeling completely hopeless due to agonizing pain. Individuals with chronic pain often can’t perform daily routines. Shifting to a limited lifestyle due to pain can cause depression and suicidal thoughts.
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, also known as RSD, is a debilitating nerve disorder affecting millions of people in the United States. Neuro-autoimmune disease is also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). RSD/CRPS is often referred to as the “suicide disease” due to the high percentage of deaths associated with its symptoms. RSD is a progressive neurological condition that can disturb all extremities of the body. It starts in one area but is likely to travel throughout the body during its progression.
RSD/CRPS causes so much pain that patients are at a higher risk of taking their life. RSD/CRPS remains grossly undertreated in most patients. There is a lack of knowledge among both health professionals and consumers and many patients have a fear of becoming addicted to opioid treatments. This causes many to go undiagnosed or not get the proper treatment needed.
Depression, Chronic Pain, and Suicidal Thoughts
Researchers found that a group of neurons responsible for negative emotions became heightened within days after an injury. This triggered a drop in dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Depression can make chronic pain worse and vice versa. The pain can become so severe that people may believe suicide is the only way it can stop.
Signs of Suicidal Thoughts
- Increased alcohol, smoking or drug consumption
- Openly threatening suicide
- Experiencing mental or emotional problems
- Lack of sleep
- Explosive mood swings or anger
- Extremely depressive mood
- Feeling hopeless
- Increased risky behaviors
- Unexpectedly getting affairs in order
- Changes in personality
- Severe anxiety and agitation
The Do’s to Help People with Chronic Pain and Suicidal Thoughts
- Take them seriously. Suicidal thoughts are a cry for help. Take it as such.
- Let them know you care about them and would be devastated to lose them.
- Allow them to vent and listen to their pain.
- Be patient with them.
- Communicate with them frequently to check-in.
- Assist them in finding an expert for treating their chronic pain.
- Assist with finding a mental health expert.
- Support them during the treatment.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
The Don’ts for Helping People with Chronic Pain and Suicidal Thoughts
- Don’t leave them alone. Detoxify the area of the means if possible.
- Don’t argue with them.
- Don’t dismiss their suicidal thoughts as a joke.
- Don’t criticize them.
- Don’t talk about negative news or death while in their presence.
- Don’t ignore them.
- Don’t gossip about their situation.
Treatment for RSD/CRPS
- Topical Pain Relievers and Topical Analgesics
- Antidepressants and Anticonvulsants
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Sympathetic nerve-blocking medications
- Intravenous Ketamine
- Physical Therapy
- Biofeedback Therapy and Spinal Cord Stimulation Therapy
If you have suicidal thoughts, please do not suffer in silence. Seek help from a close friend, relative or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You are not alone in this fight.