The relationship between chronic pain and depression can be a complex and intricate condition. The links between these two states can influence and exacerbate emotional and physical symptoms.
The link between chronic pain and depression may seem elusive and unexplainable for many. One is a physical manifestation of symptoms. Another is an emotional manifestation of symptoms. But these separate conditions can exist simultaneously. They can impact each other in a severe way. Some individuals suffering from chronic pain may begin experiencing depression symptoms due to their functionality and mobility being limited. Others experiencing severe depression may begin seeing their symptoms manifest in a physical way, such as migraines, nausea, and other psychosomatic pains.
The relationship between chronic pain and depression can be a complex and intricate condition. The links between these two states can influence and exacerbate emotional and physical symptoms. Let's first define these concepts to better understand this frustrating relationship.
Millions of Americans suffer from daily chronic pain. Individual’s suffering may feel that their functionality and mobility are hindered and limited. Their daily activities may become limited and they feel like they cannot experience a fully lived life. Everyone experiences physical pain in their life. The type and duration may vary, but we all experience it.
Chronic pain does not just “go away” with some rest. Your brain releases pain signals through the body when it senses an injury or even inflammation. It is part of the body’s inherent protective systems. Whether a small pain or a large one, the nerves send electrical impulses to the brain and process these “messages” as pain. The brain releases these pain signals alerting your body to “danger.” It is how you know something is wrong. Chronic pain releases these signals in a continuous and frequent way. If an individual experiences pain longer than three months, it can be characterized as chronic pain.
Many people find the quality of their lives impacted. It is vital for anyone experiencing prolonged pain to reach out to a medical professional. Finding comprehensive pain care can establish the patient on the path to pain relief. Chronic pain can be a complex and multifaceted problem for a patient and may require a pain specialist to manage.
Many of these individuals may suffer the following symptoms:
- Low energy
- Muscle pain
- High levels of stress hormones
- Mood disorders
Chronic pain may make you more physically sensitive and may feel worse as time goes on.
A mental health condition, depression also affects millions of people around the world. Depression is a mood disorder that can negatively affect your emotional health and daily functioning. Your thinking becomes impacted and you may find yourself with lost interest in loved activities. You may even lose interest in participating in your daily life. Some individuals can experience mild depression symptoms and for others, depression symptoms may be severe and experienced for a length of time.
Individuals suffering from depression may feel completely limited, if not incapacitated by their symptoms.
Symptoms of depression may include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling “down” for the majority of your days
- Muscle pain/joint pain
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of hopelessness
- No interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Weight loss/weight gain
- Suicidal thoughts
Depression And Pain
The relationship between chronic pain and mental health should be closely monitored because they do impact each other. The mental health effects on chronic pain can be very severe, and vice versa. People who suffer from chronic pain are unfortunately accustomed to limiting their excursions and remaining distant from participating from social events. Trying not to trigger a pain flair up, chronic pain patients have had to learn how to structure their daily lives with restricted movement and limited exposure. Chronic pain patients become more susceptible to depression because of the physical pain and the social isolation.
Chronic pain already heightens your body’s anxiety and depression. Chronic pain patients become weary of how their daily actions may increase their pain.
Chronic Pain and Depression Treatment
Treatment for depression and chronic pain may look very similar. Or they could be two separate treatment modalities. Some individuals may require therapy for depression and chronic pain medication to manage their symptoms. Because the chronic pain symptoms are tangibly evident for doctors, sometimes mental health symptoms may be missed.
There are a few therapeutic approaches to managing your depression and chronic pain. These approaches to treatment may include:
- Physical activity
- Whole body wellness
Antidepressants: Depression and chronic pain involve similar brain nerves and neurotransmitter and specific medications can both treat the pain and the mental health symptoms
Physical activity: Light activity like yoga can help relieve your physical pain by boosting your mobility and encouraging “happy” hormones (like serotonin) to be released in the body
Whole Body Wellness: Taking the time to do some journaling or reading can help “center and focus” your thoughts so they are not consumed by pain or depression. Scheduling some “self care” like an Epsom salt bath can be both soothing and pain relieving.
TMS: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive form of brain stimulation. TMS therapy targets the under-active regions (that are correlated to mood and sensations) with magnetic pulses. These pulses stimulate brain cells and improve brain function. The neurotransmitters in these regions can also be responsible for physical sensations being experienced. These mild electromagnetic pulses stimulate the nerve cells allowing long lasting changes in brain chemistry, providing relief. It also encourages the brain to create serotonin to improve mood and relieve symptoms.
Loneliness can be incredibly devastating. It’s crucial for patients to reach out. Even if its virtual, reach out to your friends and family. Send texts, make phone calls, and write emails. You should also prioritize your sleep.
Indulge with lavender oil to help you fall asleep. Or even supplements like Valerian root or Melatonin. While you may be adding vitamins and essentials oils, it’s also incredibly important to make your doctor (or psychiatrist) aware of these additional treatments.
If you are struggling with chronic pain and depression, and feeling confused about where to start looking for help, call Gemini Health (301) 363 - 1063. We are a team of mental health professionals who can help treat and manage your mental health and physical symptoms.