Living with Hidden Pain


Living with pain, emotional or physical, can be more difficult when it isn’t obvious to those around you. I’ve heard too often about people being approached in a negative way for parking in the handicapped space because they don’t “look” handicapped (but are in fact in severe pain and do have a sign indicating they are okay to use that space). I’ve also heard of people being told to “get over your depression” (like it is so easy to do). Physical and emotional pain can be debilitating enough on its own, let alone having to deal with the judgements of those around you.


Some days are easier than others, which can make it even more confusing. One day you’re perfectly fine to stand up and do the dishes, though the next day it can feel so overwhelming and/or painful that they don’t get done.


Here are some things to keep in mind as you are dealing with pain:


  1. Feeling sad is normal. You aren’t able to do things the way you once were. It’s almost like your body or mind has failed you. However, focusing on this is making the pain more difficult to handle. It’s okay to feel sad, but staying in the sadness makes it more difficult to move through and beyond it.

  2. Don’t give up. If doctors aren’t giving you the help you need, get more opinions. Try different approaches. Work through the emotional aspect of the physical pain with a therapist. You may not get back to how you used to be, but you can get to a place that is manageable. The mind is a powerful thing. If you tell yourself that you will figure out a way to move past this, or work around it, you are more likely to do so.

  3. Be kind to yourself. Make sure you are doing things to take care of you. It’s easy to forget to eat, stop talking to friends/family, or sleep too much or too little when you’re in pain. Doing things for yourself will make the pain more manageable. If you are focused on the pain, it will make it more intense.

  4. Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Listen to it. Don’t “work past the pain” and continue doing what you’re doing. Stop. Take a break. Do what you can and nothing more.

  5. Compromise. If you have tried everything and nothing is helping, it may be time to assess what you can realistically give up and what you still need to hold onto in order to be happy.

  6. Be aware. Keep track of activities, food, etc that aggravate the pain. Can you eliminate some of these and still be as healthy as you can be – and happy?

  7. People judge what they fear or don’t understand. If you don’t think someone is capable of hearing you, it’s okay to keep it to yourself. This is different from hiding the pain. This is putting up a boundary and taking care of yourself. If someone can’t support you, there is no reason to push it.

  8. Be patient with yourself. You will get irritable. You will be sad. You will be angry. You will be extra tired. Some days you won’t be able to do certain things. It’s okay. You’re human. Pain is exhausting. It can alter your mood. Apologize if you feel you hurt someone’s feelings, and make sure to forgive yourself for doing it.

  9. Ask for help. If you know someone cares, that person is safe, and they are struggling to understand – try telling them. Access that support. You don’t have to do it all on your own, and you shouldn’t have do. Of course you are perfectly capable of doing so, but doing everything on your own can make things harder.


All pain can make it difficult to function on a daily basis. Just because it isn’t obvious, doesn’t mean it affects you any less. Though it’s easy to feel forced to hide the pain more when you aren’t feeling like people understand and accept your hidden pain, it is important to get support/help from those who are around you and care. You might feel like you are alone, but you aren’t. There is help out there. There are resources waiting for you to access them.


About Alison Silvius Casanova LMFT

I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I enjoy supporting people in finding solutions to everyday problems. I work with people of all ages that struggle with social skills, are affected by addiction, and have suffered trauma/loss. My areas of interest include cognitive behavioral therapy, self esteem building, improved communication in relationships, grief/loss, and more. You can read more about me on my page at: