It is widely suggested that up to half of all people living with chronic pain also suffer from depression. And while it is at times difficult to determine whether pain worsens the depression or vice-versa, it’s not surprising that these two conditions can cause, and exacerbate, one another.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, if you live with chronic pain, the likelihood of developing depression or anxiety is tripled. And by the same token, living with depression in turn triples the likelihood of developing chronic pain. When interacting, these two conditions can ‘feed on’ one another and ultimately cause a downward spiral from which it may be difficult to recover.
How can chronic pain cause depression?
Those who suffer from chronic pain experience many symptoms and life disruptions that can naturally lead to a depressed state. Here are a few of the issues that pain can cause, which may then trigger depression and/or anxiety:
- Sleep disruption - this may result in fatigue and poor productivity during the waking hours.
- Overwhelm – a decreased ability to meet obligations to work, family and numerous daily responsibilities can leave the sufferer overcome with anxiety.
- Isolation – chronic pain can diminish mobility and energy, which may cause the sufferer to ‘sit out’ many of the activities they once enjoyed, with people they once interacted with on a more regular basis.
- Low self-esteem – lacking the ability to perform activities at an optimal level can cause feelings of guilt and a decrease in perceived self-worth.
- Irritation - this may lead to a ‘short fuse’ that can put strain on relationships.
- Stress – when your body’s stress signals are constantly on ‘high alert, nerves can become frayed and a constant state of tension may ensue.
- Physical Deterioration – when pain prevents a person from maintaining an active lifestyle or engaging in regular exercise, the body can become out of shape and overweight, which can also contribute to a poor sense of self-image.
- Missing Out – many activities that were once enjoyed may become unattainable due to chronic pain conditions, leaving the sufferer with fewer of the pleasures they look forward to each day.
The above symptoms are not mutually exclusive; one or more of these issues can lead to more of those symptoms as pain and/or depression progresses. And as pain worsens, the sufferer can grow exponentially more sensitive to the physical and emotional pain, increasing the intensity of these conditions.
One of the reasons depression/anxiety can often go undiagnosed in chronic pain sufferers is because the physical pain tends to ‘get all the attention’; for many patients, the focus on pain relief supersedes other considerations, such as mental state and emotional well-being.
But treatment of depression may be just as important as that for chronic pain, not only in support of a happier quality of life, but also because depression can cause symptoms such as fatigue, decreased motivation, changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping and more. These symptoms can lead to more chronic pain, intensifying the cycle of debilitation for the patient.
Here are a few of the symptoms that may be an indication of depression and/or anxiety:
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Lack of focus
- Inability to sleep (or too much sleep)
- Loss of appetite
- Feelings of sadness, guilt or despair
- Thoughts of suicide
Understanding that pain and depression often go hand-in-hand, today’s pain physicians are attuned to this interaction and seek to ensure the overall well-being of patients by addressing both physical and psychological conditions. When warranted, a pain management physician may recommend one or more of the following possible options for their chronic pain patients who also suffer from depression:
- Stress-reduction techniques
- Exercise/diet regimens
- Healthy lifestyle habits
- Support resources/programs
For patients with chronic pain, treatment for depression can be just as critical as addressing the physical pain; relief for one can provide significant relief for the other. Be sure to talk with your physician about all aspects of these conditions that can diminish your overall quality of living.
Florida Pain Relief Centers Can Help
If you suffer from chronic pain and experience depression as ‘part of the package’, don’t suffer needlessly. At Florida Pain Relief Centers, our compassionate, expert pain management physicians are dedicated to treating the ‘whole patient’, not just addressing the physical pain. Let us help you find relief so you can experience more of what life has to offer.
We believe that living should be enjoyable; not just bearable. Call Florida Pain Relief Centers today at 800-215-0029 to schedule a consultation, or click the button below to set up a consultation online for one of our clinics.