Depression and Chronic Pain | Pain Stop Clinics

Depression and Chronic Pain

September 13, 2017

Your frame of mind is inextricably linked to how well you cope with illness. Depression is not just chronic pain’s intolerable result, but its catalyst as well. The two are so commonly connected that 65% of depression patients suffer from pain. In the past, this link was poorly understood, and people with a desperate medical need were labelled malingerers. Researchers are still struggling with a chicken-or-egg riddle of which comes first. Does depression cause pain, or does pain precede depression? The answer seems to be both.

Research Findings on Depression’s Effect on Pain, and Vice Versa

To establish causation, researchers must find an unbiased way to assess these patients from the moment of their first psychiatric and physiological symptoms—and that’s a challenge that’s not been overcome yet. Researchers do, at least, know that physiological pain feels more intolerable when depression exists. The human body is remarkably reactive to feelings of optimism, as Amy Donaldson et al. discovered when they measured the pain intensity of coronary artery bypass surgery patients. The more optimistic they were prior to their procedures, the less pain they reported afterwards.

A sense of hopelessness and confusion can make symptoms more unbearable. Investigators have found that the more precise the diagnosis is, the less pain depression patients experience. Those with more than one symptom were also three times as likely to become depressed. Similarly, depression is linked to poorer outcomes.

Depression cannot simply be fixed overnight. If people with depression could simply decide to be more optimistic, there would be no depression. Understanding the link between depression and pain is not meant to discourage patients with both, but to examine ways that both can be treated to break the depression-pain cycle.

The studies of the last decade have led to a better understanding of how to care for people who have comorbid depression and pain. Specialists with a comprehensive understanding of these two conditions can mean all the difference for the prognosis of both. Pain Stop Clinics employ clinical staff from a range of different disciplines. This way, each unique case is treated from all angles by a clinical team.

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