Attempts to challenge the stigma of chronic pain often fail. Despite arguments from providers and patients alike, stigma remains a persistent problem.
We tend to stigmatize pain because we misunderstand its nature. Specifically, we fail to acknowledge the role that the nervous system plays in producing the experience of pain. If we more fully appreciated this role, we would understand that chronic pain is similar to other health conditions that we don’t stigmatize much, such as high hypertension (i.e., high blood pressure) or type II diabetes.
Let’s talk about something that is hard to talk about. It’s the issue of stigma. It’s a sensitive topic.
What is stigma?
Stigma is the social disapproval of a characteristic of a person and, typically, the characteristic is not changeable or not easily changeable. The disapproval is a critical judgment that an individual is not normal and has less worth than those in the norm. A natural response to stigma is shame and shame-based defensive anger.