The Impact of Stress on Trigeminal Neuralgia

I have lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember and I’ve had depression since I first felt my TN pain in 2015. I actually think it would be pretty strange if I wasn’t depressed after being diagnosed with a lifelong pain condition. I also have an awful habit of holding on to a feeling that’s upsetting me really, really tightly and basking in that feeling, rather than dealing with it in a healthy way. I get anxious, stressed and depressed.

When I was first diagnosed with TN, I was asked by my dentist if I was depressed. Apparently, pain disorders are more likely to flare up when you’re anxious, stressed, or depressed. I can vouch for that.

Ironically, I wasn’t actually depressed until I developed trigeminal neuralgia.

Stress affects the body in so many different ways – just think of how your body reacts physically to a stressful situation. You sweat, you heart races, your palms get sticky, you feel the adrenaline rush.. and those are just the things you feel conscious of, the way you can see your body reacting. On the inside, stress can work through your body, causing headaches, heartburn, muscle aches, a break out of spots and insomnia.

Have you ever been so stressed that you’ve had stomach ache?

I’m not surprised that stress is one of my biggest triggers of my trigeminal neuralgia.

It also becomes a cycle, because when I’m stressed, my pain flares up. Then I’m stressed about being in pain. I seem to get stuck in a loop of being in pain and stressed about it.

The other week, I had a huge pain flare up. I felt like my teeth were too big for my mouth and whenever I put my teeth together, I had shooting pains around my whole jaw and face. I was pretty annoyed at myself, because it felt like I’d caused it myself.

I’d had a really stressful week and I’d allowed myself to wallow in it, instead of doing anything to get myself out of it. I’m trying to get better at managing my stress levels and avoiding things that cause me anxiety, but sometimes, you just can’t get out of it. I guess I just had a week where everything made me anxious and stressed and it all built up into a trigeminal neuralgia flare up.

I’m out of my flare up now, but the fear of the pain coming back is always stressful, so am I just going to go round in circles? Definitely.

Here are some little ways you can address the stress (and hopefully reduce the impact of stress on your chronic pain):

Channel your stress into something useful, like exercise, DIY around the house, or a hobby that takes quite a lot of focus.

Don’t sit on it alone. Talk with a friend, or family. Sometimes, the longer we sit on a problem by ourselves, the worse it becomes, because we lose the ability to see any way around it.

Take enough time for yourself. I’ve learned that I can’t do absolutely everything, because I will end up run down and stressed… and it’s actually okay to take time for myself.

Write down how you feel. It’s quite obvious of me to point out that I find this helps me a lot! I tell my inner most thoughts and feelings to thousands of people on this blog. Something about writing just takes a little weight off your shoulders.

Avoid leaning on unhealthy habits, instead of tackling the route of your stress. It’s really easy to turn to a ‘quick fix’, isn’t it? Stress is the easiest excuse for why you needed that glass of wine, why you smoked, why you did all the things you weren’t supposed to. Masking a problem definitely doesn’t resolve it.

Accept the things you can’t change and, instead, focus on the things you have control over and what you can change there instead. If you live with trigeminal neuralgia, you are going to experience flare ups of pain and, sometimes, there is simply nothing you can do about that. However, you can focus on reducing stress in other areas of your life, like at home and in work.

If you are feeling stressed about a trigeminal neuralgia flare, or are anxious about your next flare, and want to speak to someone who knows what it’s like to live with TN, did you know the TNA UK has a free helpline available 24/7? Call us on 0800 999 1899.

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Trigeminal Neuralgia

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