Depression can magnify pain and make it harder to cope. The good news is that chronic pain and depression aren't inseparable. Effective treatments can relieve depression and can help make chronic pain more tolerable.
While some people look forward to the brisk days of fall and winter, anticipating family dinners and cozy nights by the fire, others dread the cooler temperatures and shorter days.
If history repeats, they know that the winter season will bring, like clockwork, worsening symptoms of depression.
Up to 3% of the population in the U.S. may suffer from winter depression, which experts term seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
Some of the 6.7% Americans who suffer depression year-round find that...
If you have chronic pain and depression, you've got plenty of company. That’s because chronic pain and depression are common problems that often overlap. Depression is one of the most common psychological issues facing people who suffer from chronic pain, and it often complicates the patient's condition and treatment. Consider these statistics:
According to the American Pain Foundation, about 32 million people in the U.S. report pain lasting longer than one year.
More than half of the patients who complain of pain to their doctors are depressed.
On average, 65% of people who are depressed also complain of pain.
People whose pain limits their independence are especially likely to get depressed.
Because depression in patients with chronic pain frequently goes undiagnosed, it often goes untreated. Pain symptoms and complaints take center stage on most doctors' visits. The result is depression, along with sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, lack of energy, and decreased physical activity -- all of which may make pain much worse.
"Chronic pain and depression go hand in hand," says Steven Feinberg, MD, adjunct associate clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. "You almost have to assume a person with chronic pain is depressed and begin there."
Chronic Pain and Depression: A Vicious Cycle
Pain provokes an emotional response in everyone. Anxiety, irritability, and agitation -- all these are normal feelings when we're hurting. Normally, as pain subsides, so does the stressful response.
But what if the pain doesn't go away? Over time, the constantly activated stress response can cause multiple problems associated with depression. Those problems can include:
Some of the overlap between depression and chronic pain can be explained by biology. Depression and chronic pain share some of the same neurotransmitters -- the chemical messengers traveling between nerves. They also share some of the same nerve pathways.