Talk of frustration in the narratives of people with chronic pain

Chronic Illn. 2012 Sep;8(3):176-91. doi: 10.1177/1742395312443692. Epub 2012 Apr 2.


Objectives: To improve understanding of the sources of frustration for people with chronic pain and consider the potential influence of frustration on the chronic pain experience and relationships with health professionals.

Methods: Qualitative in-depth interviews with a diverse, maximum variation sample of 46 participants with chronic pain, 30 of whom talked about frustration. Analysis paid close attention to how people talked about their frustration as well as what they said.

Results: Frustration is a multi-faceted emotion and its effects are cumulative. Sources of frustration include interference with everyday activities, the interruption of life goals and roles and the unpredictability of pain; here we focus on the frustrations associated with the invisibility of chronic pain and the perceived limitations of diagnosis and pain management (both related to the perceived legitimacy of the condition). Several of the participants who had lived with chronic pain for many years described overcoming, or managing, their frustrations.

Discussion: If patients think that their pain is not being believed this is clearly a barrier to an effective consultation. Communication with chronic pain patients may improve if the frustration of living with an invisible, debilitating condition that is hard to diagnose and treat is explicitly (and perhaps repeatedly) acknowledged by the health professional.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Communication*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Patient Care / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Tape Recording
  • Young Adult