The emotional effects of CRPS can be difficult to deal with. Understanding how the limbic system works will help you understand how the brain processes incoming messages. I have CRPS and have dealt with some of these emotional effects. I will also share some tips on coping with the emotional effects of CRPS that have worked for me.
The Limbic System
The dysfuntion of the limbic system has a major impact on daily life. The sympathetic nerves carrying pain and other messages end in the limbic area of the brain. The limbic system is located between the brain stem and the brain’s hemispheres.
The limbic area is responsible for emotions, storing memories, regulating hormones, sensory perception, motor function and sense of smell. It is the root of all the emotional effects produced with CRPS.
The limbic system is made up of four main structures. The amygdala is involved with emotional responses, hormone secretion and memory. The hippocampus sends memories to the appropriate part of the brain and retrieves them. The hypothalamus is the emotional center. It gets the adrenaline flowing, controls emotions such as being happy, unhappy and angry. The thalamus relays the sensory signals to and from the spinal cord.
In a study of 824 CRPS patients done by Dr. Hooshang Hooshman and Dr. Masood Hashmi, they found one or more limbic system dysfunctions in all but three patients. Their results found 92% suffered from insomnia, 78% had irritability, agitation and anxiety, 73% suffered from depression, 48% had poor memory and concentration, 36% exercised poor judgment and 32% had panic attacks. The emotional effects these symptoms cause are physical and mental.
This is common for those living with CRPS. We wake often during the night because of pain and as a result, feel fatigued and drained. We often need some form of medication to help us sleep. I take an over-the-counter sleep aid. Other things which have been helpful are taking a warm bath before bed, using a heating pad or lavender scented rice bag, and meditation.
Irritability, Agitation and Anxiety
These emotional effects can interfere with daily life. It can cause us to snap at our loved ones leading to feelings of guilt. I have found journaling to be a big help in dealing with these emotional effects of CRPS. Allowing yourself to vent your emotions can help to reduce these emotional effects. Some have found it helpful to see a psychologist who can prescribe medication if needed. A psychologist can also give you other tools to help you cope.
This is the most common and devastating emotional effect of CRPS. Dealing with the pain CRPS brings, along with loss of your job and the roller coaster of emotions is enough to bring on depression. According to a survey I made, 89% suffer from depression and 87% did not suffer from depression before being diagnosed with CRPS. For those who deal with depression, finding a psychologist who can give you medications and tools to help improve your life can help you to get back on track.
Poor Memory and Concentration
These emotional effects are quite common. They can make you feel like you’ve grown old before your time. These have been hardest for me to deal with. I used to have an excellent memory. Now I can’t remember to make a phone call or write an email. I am distracted easily which makes it hard to concentrate. I found it helpful to write reminders of things to do on sticky notes. They are small and can be stuck to the computer or around the house. Keep a small notebook in your purse or car to jot down things as they occur to you. I use a pillbox to make sure I take my medications on time.
You might experience only a few of the emotional effects, or a combination of them. Just as CRPS is an individual disorder, so are the emotional effects from it. There are ways to help you deal with the emotional effects of CRPS. If any of them are interfering with your daily life, consult your doctor. There is no shame in asking for help if you need it. Remember you are not alone.