How to Combat Pain-Related Depression

Anyone who lives with chronic pain knows that the aches don't just occur on your knee, your shoulders, or the area you were injured. Chronic pain affects your whole life.

It impacts your ability to work, enjoy yourself, interact with people, and engage in your normal daily activities. Given how pervasive it is, it's no wonder that 30 percent of chronic pain patients suffer with clinical depression. So what does it take to beat back depression when you live with chronic pain? 

The National Pain Foundation says successfully treating chronic pain means you and your physician need to examine the emotional factors that may influence your pain level and physical disability. One of the first steps is recognizing that depression often accompanies pain and that increases in pain or widespread pain can be a symptom of depression. The signs of pain-related depression include:

  • Decreased physical fitness
  • Inability to sleep
  • Lack of interest in sex and other pleasurable activities
  • Family, work, financial, and/or legal stress
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Decreased interest in engaging with family and friends
  • Decreased activity level
  • Fear of injury
  • Irritability, anxiety, and feeling blue or tired
  • Becoming socially isolated

Treating Depression

Start by reaching out to family and friends and tell them you're struggling. Schedule a visit with your physician and talk about how pain is affecting your emotional well-being. Consider consulting with a pain management clinic that offers a variety of therapies to treat pain and the many social and emotional complexities involved with chronic pain. Then, take action to aggressively deal with your depression. These methods are shown to be effective for many patients:

  • Medication. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and medications to help you sleep are very helpful for most people.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is a non-pharmaceutical technique for learning to recognize and change behaviors that increase your symptoms.
  • Stress management techniques like hypnosis, meditation, and biofeedback help many patients dial down their emotional distress naturally and in easily reproducible, non-pharmaceutical ways.
  • Traditional psychological and family counseling helps patients talk about the impact of pain on their well-being and create solutions for themselves and their families.
  • Group therapy and support groups help patients share their experience with people who really understand what they're dealing with. It's also a good way to increase social interaction and brainstorm solutions for living with pain and beating depression.

Lifestyle modifications are essential for all patients and include improving your nutrition and increasing exercise. Exercise is effective in improving overall health, feelings of physical and mental well-being and for some people, in improving their depression. If you're struggling with chronic pain and depression, take steps to make life feel better today.




National Pain Foundation
Pain and Depression