Fact: Chronic Pain Is Connected With Depression
For many people, chronic pain is intertwined with depression -- as well as anxiety and other psychological conditions.
"There's a very complex relationship between pain and depression," Cohen says. "Pain can be a symptom of depression, and depression can certainly worsen the diagnosis of pain." It's a cruel combination. Often, it's impossible to tell where one cause ends and the other starts.
Of course, some people with chronic pain don't like this idea. They feel that accepting a psychological connection to pain implies that they're making it up, that their pain is "all in their heads." But that's not the case at all.
Depression and anxiety disorders are real medical conditions. Studies have also shown a clear connection between emotional trauma and pain disorders. Brain imaging studies have actually found that physical and psychological pain activates some identical areas in the brain, says Seddon R. Savage, MD, past president of the American Pain Society. Acknowledging that chronic pain and depression are connected in no way diminishes what you're feeling.
Also, some antidepressants have been shown to help manage certain types of chronic pain. Your doctor might suggest an antidepressant for your chronic pain, even if you are not depressed.
Myth: Taking Opioid Painkillers Leads to Drug Addiction
We’ve all read sensational stories of addiction. So it’s no surprise that many people with chronic pain fear that taking opioids will result in drug addiction. As a result, some people with terrible chronic pain refuse medication that could really help them.
"When they're taken in the short-term and used as directed, the risk of becoming addicted to an opioid medication is very, very low," Cohen says.
There are instances where doctors need to be especially careful with opioids, Oaklander says. For instance, people who have a strong personal or family history of addiction are at higher risk. "But even they can use these drugs safely in some cases," she says, "although preferably with the guidance of a pain specialist."
Myth: Taking Opioid Painkillers Will Completely Cure Chronic Pain
Although opioids are effective at treating pain, they are not the Holy Grail of pain relief. Some people think that if they could only get their doctor to give them a prescription, their troubles would be over.