Chronic Pain Series: The Importance of Pain-Validation

Written by: Alyssa Kiss, M.A.
Chronic Pain Series: The Importance of Pain-Validation

“…If only things would hurt in a clearer way.” – Excerpt of a poem by Fortesa Latifi titled “chronic illness”

Chronic pain can be a truly debilitating experience. Whether you deal with pounding migraines, searing back pain, or a disease like fibromyalgia, navigating life while in pain can be lonely, exhausting, and often feels hopeless. There is constant confusion, differing medical opinions, and a palpable pressure to minimize pain to stay socially connected with others.

It only makes sense that this experience of pain would seep into all areas of life, especially mental health. Some studies estimate the rate of mental health issues for people with chronic pain to be around 63%-75% (Meda et al., 2022). This is a staggering number and truly reflects the far-reaching impact of living in pain. From dismissive doctors to a consistent lack of understanding from family and friends, there is a sense of invalidation that can be a potent contributor to mental health struggles. This makes addressing the experience of invalidation for people experiencing chronic pain essential. Below is a brief overview of pain-validation and a few suggestions to begin working towards experiencing greater validation.

Invalidation is a common experience for people with chronic pain. Research shows that people often don’t feel believed and experience self-judgement. Also, people in pain often feel that others don’t understand their experience and may feel stigmatized (Nicola, et al., 2022). There is a huge need for people to feel validated both by themselves and by others.

The experience of pain-invalidation increases stress for individuals which in turn can trigger more pain. Not feeling that one’s pain is believed and accepted by others can also lead to feeling socially excluded and can impact a person’s sense of identity. That is why pain-validation is so important. So, what is pain-validation?

Pain-validation has been defined as having three main components:

  1. Being believed that their experience of pain is true
  2. Being accepted in their expression of pain
  3. Communication from others that they are believed and accepted (Nicola, et al., 2022)

This form of pain-validation is one that can be used by oneself, by a trusted friend or family member, or by a mental health clinician.

So, how do you engage in the work of pain-validation? Below are a few ideas to begin the work of validating your own pain and seeking sources of external validation for your experience:

  • Develop a mantra of acceptance and validation. For example, “I am respecting my body and doing what I can, with where I am now.”
  • Join support groups to connect with others experiencing chronic pain.
  • Explore the idea of beginning or continuing individual therapy.
  • Share the experience of invalidation with trusted friends and family members and invite them into the work of pain-validation.


Meda, R. T., Nuguru, S. P., Rachakonda, S., Sripathi, S., Khan, M. I., & Patel, N. (2022). Chronic pain-induced depression: A review of prevalence and management. Cureus.

Nicola, M., Correia, H., Ditchburn, G., & Drummond, P. D. (2022). Defining pain-validation: The importance of validation in reducing the stresses of chronic pain. Frontiers in Pain Research, 3.