Can CBT Help Chronic Pain Sufferers Better Than Opioids?

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Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy focused on increasing mindful awareness and modifying negative thought patterns to ultimately help individuals think more rationally and realistically to manage their entire life. It’s used for treating mood disorders like depression and anxiety. But studies have found that it can also be used for effectively managing chronic pain and even reducing opioid dependence.

CBT vs. Opioids for Managing Chronic Pain

CBT is an immensely effective alternative treatment option for chronic pain, especially in cases where opioid painkillers just aren’t cutting it. Individuals suffering from chronic low back pain, for instance, have reported having lower pain sensations and enhanced overall mobility with CBT.

It’s a fact that millions of people worldwide use opioids for managing chronic pain, but although these can offer temporary relief, they can also be very addictive and lead to opioid dependence. Additionally, opioid overdoses could result in respiratory depression, a condition that could be life threatening.

The Problem With Pain and Opioid Use


Although opioids can ease physical pain, they don’t address the psychological complications, which puts individuals at high risk for developing anxiety and depression that in some cases is severe enough to produce intense feelings of doom and hopelessness. These kinds of thoughts—fearful, depressive and pessimistic—are known as catastrophizing and for making individuals feel more pain and misery.

For plenty of individuals, this triggers a vicious cycle. For example, the more terrible you’re feeling emotionally, the worse your pain will feel that in turn will result in making your emotions and thoughts more pessimistic.

How CBT Can Help Chronic Pain Sufferers

For individuals suffering from chronic pain, ending that vicious cycle is immensely critical and will require them to change their catastrophizing thought patterns. The problem is that opioids simply can’t do this. While they can relieve physical pain by dulling your senses, they also dull your motivation and make you lethargic, which, in turn, could sap your willpower to address related psychological issues. You don’t even have to overdose on opioids to experience these side effects because they’re a normal part of daily opioid use.

Enter CBT. Whether you seek CBT sessions in Westport, CT or anywhere else, you’ll be taught specific skills you can utilize for disrupting your destructive thinking so that you can better manage your condition. You’ll learn helpful techniques for relaxing your mind and body to assess your problems and thoughts objectively.

CBT sessions for chronic pain usually involve controlled breathing techniques, body scans, and learning how to alter negative moods that usually come about with a flare-up. This is known as cognitive restructuring, and it focuses on determining, challenging and modifying your catastrophizing thoughts. The positive impact of CBT can persist for years, unlike with opioids.

So while there’s no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all approach to managing chronic pain, CBT really works. The main takeaway is whether you use it exclusively or with other treatment options, such as opioids, it will give you the necessary tools to live your life more meaningfully despite your pain.

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