Life with Chronic Pain can Cause Depression

Life with chronic or long-term pain is difficult and the depression that can accompany long-term pain makes it even worse. “Depression magnifies pain. It makes everyday living more difficult.”[1] Pain is considered chronic or long-term when it lasts beyond what would be expected from the original injury. This kind of pain can cause low energy, depression, and unusually high levels of stress hormones.[2]

Chronic pain can also disrupt sleep and make you more sensitive to other pain. You may even start to hurt in areas that used to feel fine. According to the American Pain Foundation, research shows that around 32 million people in the United States report pain that has lasted for a year or more – that means that one in ten Americans report chronic or long-term pain. Between 25 and 50% of those who talk to their doctors about long-term pain are clinically depressed.[3]

“People with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing psychiatric symptoms — usually mood or anxiety disorders — and depressed patients have three times the average risk of developing chronic pain.”[4]

“Pain provokes an emotional response in everyone. If you have pain, you may also have anxiety, irritability, and agitation. These are normal feelings when you’re hurting. Usually, as pain subsides, so does the stressful response. But with chronic pain, you may feel constantly tense and stressed. Over time, the stress can result in different emotional problems associated with depression. Some of the problems individuals with both chronic pain and depression have include:”

  • Altered mood
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Family stress
  • Fatigue
  • Fear of injury
  • Financial concerns
  • Physical deconditioning
  • Reduced sexual interest and activity
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Social isolation
  • Weight gain or loss[5]

“Researchers once thought the relationship between pain, anxiety, and depression resulted mainly from psychological rather than biological factors. Chronic pain is depressing, and likewise major depression may feel physically painful. But as researchers have learned more about how the brain works, and how the nervous system interacts with other parts of the body, they have discovered that pain shares some biological mechanisms with anxiety and depression.”[6]

The combination of depression and pain is reflected in the circuitry of the nervous system. Pain goes both ways between the body and the brain. Normally, the brain interrupts the signals of physical discomfort so that we can function. When this shutoff valve is broken, physical sensations, including pain, are more likely to become the center of attention. The pathways of the brain that handle pain, including the brain’s center of emotion, use some of the same pathways for regulating mood. When regulation fails, pain is intensified along with sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety. And chronic pain, like chronic depression, can alter the functioning of the nervous system and make itself worse in a continuing cycle.[7]

From a common-sense view point, “’we know that simply having a bad headache or back pain for a day can affect our mood. Imagine having that pain every day for six months. It’s actually quite reasonable to expect anxiety and depression with chronic pain,’ says pain management specialist Hersimren Basi, MD.”[8]

If you have pain and depression because of an injury as the result of a someone else’s negligence, see a doctor, and, as always, please call Groth Law Firm, S.C. with any questions.  We are available 24/7 to discuss your options as the victim of negligence. Our initial consultations are always free.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice. It is not medical advice and should not be used as medical advice. The legal statutes, laws, and procedures contained in this article may not be current and may have been revised since the time of publication or contain errors. An attorney can provide legal guidance only after reviewing the details of your individual case.

[1] https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-chronic-pain#1

[2] https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-chronic-pain#1

[3] https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-chronic-pain#1

[4] https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/depression-and-pain

[5] https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-chronic-pain#1

[6] https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-pain-anxiety-depression-connection

[7] https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/depression-and-pain

[8] https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2017/08/why-chronic-pain-brings-you-down-how-to-feel-better/