What can I do if my child is experiencing pain alongside their mental health challenges?
Firstly, it’s helpful to understand how pain and mental health are connected. Our mind and our body are always communicating and working together, known as the mind-body connection. Information we take in from our body (what we see, touch, taste, smell and hear) is sent to our brain to make sense of. Our brain then sends important messages to all parts of our body that affect how we feel and act. Because the mind and body are one combined system, pain is both a physical and emotional experience.
Physical symptoms are very common in mental health challenges, such as a racing heart and dizziness with anxiety or poor appetite and feeling tired with depression. Pain (such as headaches, back pain, or stomach aches) can also be a common symptom of mental health challenges. Studies have shown that chronic pain and mental health challenges, such as depression, interact and can make each other worse.
Over time, ongoing pain and stress can change how the brain and nervous system work. These changes disrupt the balance between the mind-body connection. This can lead to chronic pain which impacts overall mental health and doing things that make life meaningful like attending school, spending time with friends or participating in activities.
Understanding the mind-body connection and learning about strategies for treating pain can be an important step for managing your child’s physical and mental health.
Learn more about supporting and managing pain in children in the BC Children’s Hospital Family Resource Pain Guide, as well as in the resources below.