Does chronic pain have you depressed?

June 20, 2019 | by Jocelyn Droege, PhD
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

If you have chronic pain and have ever felt down, depressed, hopeless ... you are not alone.

Chronic pain affects approximately 20 percent of people across the globe. Pain is a leading cause of disability and is the most common reason that people access the U.S. healthcare system. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pain affects more people in the U.S. than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.

Pain is a very personal experience, one that can only be accurately defined by the person experiencing the pain. Pain comes in a variety of forms, such as musculoskeletal (pain associated with muscles, joints, bones), nerve, and headache pain. You may experience pain from cancer, arthritis, migraines, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, shingles or neuropathy, to name a few. Sometimes pain results from an injury, infection or surgery that has long healed.

Chronic pain typically lasts for more than three months and may involve pain that has persisted beyond the expected healing time. The nearly 50 million U.S. adults living with chronic pain are three to four times more likely to develop mental health problems, including depression and suicide.

Chronic pain and depression frequently occur together. Pain and depression, particularly when left undiagnosed and untreated, may feed off of one another, turning into a vicious cycle of worsening pain and depression. Additionally, negative emotions like sadness may also lead to pain, including back pain, headaches and stomachaches.

Those with chronic pain and major depressive disorder report more severe physical health symptoms, poorer health-related quality of life, and more disabling pain. Further, those with chronic pain and mental health conditions may be at increased risk of developing substance use problems, such as becoming dependent on opioid pain medication.

How can you tell if you might be depressed? The National Institute of Mental Health lists some symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling sad, irritable or anxious
  • Feeling empty, hopeless, guilty or worthless
  • Loss of pleasure in usually-enjoyed hobbies or activities, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy, feeling listless
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much, waking too early
  • Eating too much or not wanting to eat at all, possibly with unplanned weight gain or loss
  • Thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Chronic pain is a complex condition. Treatment is even more challenging when pain overlaps with depression. The two are often treated in combination through medical and mental health treatment by pain specialists. Pain clinics, rehabilitation centers and behavioral health specialists can help you cope with symptoms of these conditions.

In addition, low-impact exercises like walking, bicycling, swimming and stretching can help relieve chronic pain and boost mood. Relaxation techniques like mindfulness meditation, massage and yoga, as well as acupuncture, may also help to relieve pain and improve your outlook.

Behavioral health treatments, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and acceptance-based commitment therapy for chronic pain, have been shown to be effective interventions for people who have chronic pain, as well as those who also experience depression.

It is important to keep your physician and mental health provider informed about how you’re feeling both physically and emotionally. Your providers can help you take the next steps to feeling better.

There are effective medical and behavioral health treatments for chronic pain. If you have ongoing pain, Make an appointment with a physician and behavioral health provider who specialize in chronic pain. Learn more about our Pain Clinic.

If you find yourself suffering from symptoms of depression and/or chronic pain, please seek help sooner rather than later. There are numerous treatment options; contact our team of professionals to determine the best approach for you. Learn more about Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

Are you at risk for depression? Take our free, online DepressionAware test.

Related blogs:

What can you do when you’re always in pain?

Depression can take a toll on your body, too

Untreated depression brings heart patients added risk

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