Depression Among Chronic Pain Sufferers

Many people who suffer long-term pain become depressed, sad and withdrawn.

Suffering from chronic pain can take its toll on a person’s mood and psychological state. No one wants to be in constant misery, yet this state of discomfort can impose huge changes in a person’s life that can lead to lost work, lowered productivity and a diminished interest in hobbies and activities a person once enjoyed. People with chronic pain may also live in fear that they will become incapacitated or fully disabled by their condition. Unfortunately, this can become a cycle. People in pain may become depressed and this can actually make the pain worse. Chronic pain is complex and is further complicated by depression. Both are treatable conditions but finding the right treatment may take some time.

According to the American Pain Foundation, about 32 million U.S. residents report experiencing pain that lasts longer than a year. Also, many of these people are also diagnosed with depression. Lasting pain can affect thoughts and behavior, causing mood swings and personality changes. Some people with this kind of pain live a life of fear and isolation. They may withdraw from life and other people, and stop most or all physical activity for fear of re-injury or worsened pain. Taking it too easy can lead to wasting of muscles and inflexibility. Immobility creates more pain. When treated successfully, chronic pain can begin to ease and the symptoms of depression can disappear.

The coexistence of pain and depression can make life unbearable. But treating these conditions together gives doctors and patients the best chance at success. Physical, psychological and social wellbeing is jeopardized by chronic pain and can dramatically affect a person’s quality of life. Untreated, major depression due to chronic pain can lead to suicide. One problem is that depression goes undiagnosed for many people with chronic pain so it’s not treated and can magnify the physical and psychological pain.

Chronic pain and depression involve the same nerves and neurotransmitters so experts say that antidepressants can be used to treat both. These medications can be used to lessen the brain’s perception of pain. Some doctors also prescribe opiates for pain, but there are possible side effects, including physical and psychological dependence. Patients with these conditions are advised to get regular exercise, even if they are fearful of a worsened condition. This is because inactivity can make pain worse, contributing to weakened muscles and inflexible joints. There are plenty of other things people can do to help their physical and psychological state. Counseling can help some people cope better and deal with issues of pain and depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy is also good for helping people reformulate their ideas and beliefs about pain. Other options include bio/neuro-feedback, massage, acupuncture, meditation, physical therapy and chiropractic treatment.

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