In the movie Cake, which received a limited release last month and its nationwide release today, Jennifer Aniston portrays a woman dealing with daily chronic pain. Although reviews have been mixed, those with chronic pain are excited to see a mainstream movie give attention to what life can be like for them.

Seeing your health condition represented onscreen can be comforting, but may also lead to dramatization or misinformation.

Trying to make chronic pain visible

Coping with chronic pain is already a tremendous challenge in and of itself. But on top of personal physical and emotional challenges, many with chronic pain also struggle with the fact that others can't see their burden externally and therefore don't understand it. Even friends and loved ones with good intentions can be baffled by the struggle of living with chronic pain.

In interviews, Aniston has said she prepared for the role by interviewing people who experience chronic pain to find out what their lives are like on a daily basis. She made an effort to portray—both physically and emotionally—the non-stop battle that people with chronic pain fight.


A few downsides

However, there are a few aspects of the movie that may give people with chronic pain pause. For example, the movie shows Aniston's character as being addicted to painkillers, obtaining them illegally, and mixing medications with alcohol. Although painkiller addiction is a serious issue, many people with chronic pain manage their use of opioid medications responsibly and without addictive behaviors.

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In fact, Aniston's characters exhibits several behaviors that could be considered a "what not to do" guide to coping with chronic pain: getting mired in negativity, alienating her support group and physical therapist, and fixating on suicidal thoughts, to name a few. These may make her character more realistic or more dramatic, but not necessarily a role model.

Still, the overall impression of Cake in the chronic pain community is a positive one as people with chronic pain appreciate any telling of their story that will help others understand what they go through on a daily basis.

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