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Pain and Depression: Is There a Connection?



Is there a connection between pain and depression? Can depression cause physical pain?

Answer by Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, MD.

Pain and depression are closely related. Depression can cause pain and pain can cause depression. Pain and depression sometimes create a vicious circle in which pain aggravates the symptoms of depression, and the resulting depression makes the pain worse.

In many people, depression causes inexplicable physical symptoms, such as back pain or headache. This type of pain can be the first or only symptom of depression.

Pain and its associated problems can lessen over time and affect your mood. Chronic pain causes a number of problems that can lead to depression. Eg sleep disorders and stress. Obstruction of pain can lead to low self-esteem due to work, legal or financial problems.

Depression occurs not only with pain caused by injury. It is also common in people who have pain associated with a condition such as diabetes or heart disease.

In order to manage the symptoms of pain and depression, separate treatment may be required for each disease. However, some treatments can help with both:

  • Antidepressants can alleviate both pain and depression through common chemical messengers in the brain.
  • Talk therapy, also called psychological counseling (psychotherapy), may be effective in the treatment of both conditions.
  • Stress reduction techniques, physical activity, exercise, meditation, journaling, coping skills, and other strategies can also help.
  • Pain Rehabilitation Programs, Such as The Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center typically offers a team approach to treatment, including medical and psychiatric aspects.

The treatment of concomitant pain and depression can be most effective if it includes a combination of treatments.

If you have pain and depression, get help before your symptoms get worse. You do not have to be unhappy. The right treatment can help you to enjoy life again.

Updated: 2016-03-11

Release date: 2016-03-11


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