Those who suffer from pain know that it can be very difficult to cope both physically and emotionally. On my radio show, we have discussed many traditional and alternative options for easing physical pain. Often, chronic pain not only hurts physically, but emotionally. Today, let’s delve into the emotional side of pain. For example, depression can be felt deeply, and can worsen physical pain. A study in the journal of psychological science found that pain caused by emotional distress was felt more deeply and for a longer period of time than pain caused by physical injuries.
Chronic pain can lead to anxiety and depression. Having to deal with a chronic disease like pain day after day can be exhausting and can take over your life. Patients will tell me that they feel a deep, inner pain from grieving over the loss of friendships, activities, and hobbies they once loved. Emotional pain often recurs, over and over again in our minds. Depression can manifest when you least expect it. Losing interest in activities and people you once enjoyed can result from a chronic pain condition. You many no longer feel like going on bike rides, long walks, or hanging out with friends anymore. Depression can also manifest as decreased appetite, energy levels, and the inability to sleep or concentrate on tasks. If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, you’re probably not alone. Furthermore, if both of you suffer from chronic pain, it’s not surprising if the loss of interest in once cherished activities has stopped abruptly from conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines, or low back pain.
Depression is a common and serious mood disorder. In fact, it’s the most consistent and strongest predictor of suicidal ideation (thinking about committing suicide). And the risk of suicide nearly doubles for those with chronic pain. It’s critical for you to alert your primary care doctor or pain specialist if you’re feeling depressed because major depression can be treated. Neurochemical imbalances resulting from depression can be normalized with medications, and psychological counseling can help restructure negative, maladaptive thoughts. Several of my patients feel that pain has isolated them from the life they once enjoyed. This leads to depression as well. Pain coupled with depression can hold patients back so much that their relationships deteriorate and their work environment is disrupted.
You are not alone in feeling the effects of depression. Chronic pain affects more people than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease combined. But remember, pain is treatable with the right combination of medical, interventional, and integrative therapies. Depression can and should be treated. I urge you to consult your physician to discuss any major depressive symptoms you are experiencing. We are all part of your network of care. Don’t give up and remember that you’re not alone.