Chronic Pain and Depression Linked?

Sad woman sitting on bed
Arief Juwono / Getty Images

Have you ever been in so much pain that it actually causes you to become depressed? People with chronic pain tend to develop depression. Unfortunately, depression is quite common for people who have chronic pain and can be difficult to treat. A study done by the American Pain Foundation found that more than 30 million people in the United States alone have stated that their pain has lasted longer than a year, which is definitely categorized as chronic pain.

Also, more than a quarter to half the population in the United States have told their doctors that their pain made them go through depression, not to mention the 65 percent of depressed people telling their doctors that they are in physical pain constantly.

Since depression has become quite common for people with chronic pain, it can be even more common for doctors not to notice it. It is also because of this that people can go undiagnosed and untreated. Distinguishing depression and pain symptoms can be difficult to determine and can take complex forms. Some doctors patients visit focus more on the patient's physical pain rather than hear the patient's plea to help with their depression. Symptoms of depression can include loss of appetite, inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, a decrease in energy, and a decrease in exercising or any physical activity, which can cause the pain to get much worse.

Since depression and chronic pain go hand in hand, it can be difficult to separate the two. From a biological perspective, depression and chronic pain share the same neurotransmitters and can even share some nerve pathways in the brain and the spinal cord. This can affect the person's brain chemistry a lot and provides a link to depression and chronic pain.

It can also provide insight into a person dealing with chronic pain might develop or have depression because of it.

Chronic pain can force the same symptoms as those associated with depression, such as loss of appetite, lack of exercise, inability to sleep and lack of socialization. It can even cause difficulties in relationships and work. These symptoms can cause a person to become sad and vulnerable. It is also because of the depression developed by the chronic pain that the person might see an increase in their pain. Those with chronic pain and depression also see an increase in stress which can also result in more pain, inability to control or handle life, and an unhealthy way to deal with everything occurring in their life. It is because these two are so connected that it can be hard not to have one without the other, but there are ways to help with this.

There are prescription and non-prescription drugs that can provide relief for the chronic pain and help with the depression. It is important to talk to your doctor if you ever feel depressed or if you notice your pain increasing because your feelings have changed.

Some doctors may have you fill out a depression form to determine where you might be at with your pain and your depression. From there onwards, you can learn how to get the ​proper treatment to help reduce both. It is important for you to know that it is not uncommon for individuals to feel both chronic pain and depression and that they are linked to one another. Both chronic pain and depression can affect a person's entire life, so if you find yourself relating to many of the symptoms listed above, speak to your doctor and ask how you can improve your overall health.

Continue Reading