Those with major depression and chronic pain experience the effects in their behavior and throughout their entire body. Depression is also frequently associated with many health conditions, including chronic pain.

People diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), more commonly known as depression, have a serious mental illness. This disorder disrupts one’s daily routine and interferes with their quality of life. Of the adult population in the U.S., 18 years and older, 6.7% suffer from depression.  Many symptoms of depression and chronic pain overlap.

  • Feeling empty, hopeless, worthless, sad, guilty, helpless, or anxious much of the time
  • Feeling restless or irritable. Being in a bad mood more often than not
  • Chronically tired or exhausted
  • Trouble making decisions or focusing, difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Problems with overeating or having no appetite
  • Pervasive thoughts of death and suicide, and may have attempted suicide
  • Chronic aches and pain including headaches and cramps
  • Problems with digestion that don’t respond to treatment
  • Sleep disorders such as insomnia, or perhaps sleeping all the time

Depression and chronic pain can last anywhere from weeks, months or years. Regular medication for pain may reduce the intensity of the pain, but is not effective in alleviating depression. There may be an identifiable cause of pain, such as an injury, infection, a long standing illness, but in other cases the origin of the pain may be unknown.

Yes, there are cases where the chronic pain has no identifiable cause. Someone experiencing depression and chronic pain may have problems sleeping, carrying out their daily activities, loses interest in activities, may feel worthless, hopeless, helpless and even suicidal.  Depression and chronic pain frequently co-occur.

People who are already depressed may have an increase in depressive symptoms if they develop a chronic pain condition. A common sign of depression is feeling aches and pain and studies have shown that those suffering from depression are often more sensitive to pain. Recent studies indicate that inflammation may be linked to depression and the medical conditions associated with major depression.  Thus, depression and chronic pain may share inflammatory processes.

For example, Fibromyalgia seems to occur in people with major depression and chronic pain. It seems that patients suffering from fibromyalgia are more likely to be depressed than people without fibromyalgia. Depression and chronic pain from fibromyalgia happen to have similar risk factors as well as similar treatments.

It takes time to come out of the vicious cycle of depression and chronic pain but current treatments can be effective.  Currently the most common treatments are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most effective type of psychotherapy or talk therapy for major depression and chronic pain. It helps patients change their negative cognitions and behaviors which may be contributing factors for their depression and chronic pain.
  • Antidepressants have proven to be helpful but as always there may be side effects and drug interactions if the patient is taking other medications.
  • Ongoing psychotherapy or talk therapy garners the best results when used in conjunction with antidepressants for the treatment of depression and chronic pain.

For those who think they are suffering from major depression and chronic pain it’s important to seek help and not to lose hope.  If your past treatment for depression and chronic pain have not been successful, you may need to consider an intensive outpatient program.  Because our treatment for depression and chronic pain relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and chronic pain.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression and chronic pain, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression and chronic pain that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.