Chronic Pain and Meaning in Life: Challenge and Change

  • Jessie DezutterEmail author
  • Laura Dewitte
  • Siebrecht Vanhooren


A chronic pain condition affects all aspects of life. Chronic pain patients are not only confronted with enduring pain, but also with the detrimental psychosocial consequences of their condition such as job loss, marital problems, and social isolation. Much effort is required in finding the best way to cope with their aggravating situation. Research, policy, and care seem to focus predominantly on the physical and psychological aspects of the lives of chronic pain patients, with limited attention for the existential dimension. This is remarkable because chronic pain often threatens patients’ perceptions about what is meaningful to them and the amount of meaning they find in their daily life. Experiencing chronic pain often requires a revision of one’s life goals and expectations and can trigger an existential search for meaning in life. Hence, the impact of a chronic condition is not limited to patients’ biopsychosocial functioning but affects the existential domain as well. Patients wonder how their life can be meaningful if they experience chronic pain and they are often less able to engage with those aspects of their life that gave their life meaning because of the pain. Despite the significance of experiencing meaningfulness for the functioning of pain patients, those themes seem often neglected in the work of treatment providers and care professionals. In this chapter, an introduction is given on the concept of meaning in life with attention for meaning making, searching for meaning, experiencing meaning and meaningfulness as part of sense of coherence. Furthermore, this theoretical framework is applied to the chronic pain condition and empirical findings are offered showing that meaning in life is related to the functioning and the well-being of pain patients. Finally, clinical implications and suggestions for implementation in care are discussed.


Life Satisfaction Chronic Pain Pain Patient Chronic Pain Patient Chronic Pain Condition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessie Dezutter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laura Dewitte
    • 1
  • Siebrecht Vanhooren
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Group School and Developmental PsychologyUniversity of LeuvenLouvainBelgium

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