What is the Connection Between Chronic Pain and Depression?

Article Details
  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
External Resources

Chronic pain and depression are connected in two ways. First, a person who is dealing with chronic pain is more likely to become depressed than a person who is not. Second, depression may make chronic pain seem worse, contribute to the development of pain in other parts of the body, or make it more difficult to deal with chronic pain symptoms. To make matters worse, a patient’s depression may be overlooked or under-treated. Doctors often focus on the physical pain and may give less attention to a patient's mental state.

When a person has an illness or injury that causes pain, he can usually look forward to the day when the pain will end. In some cases, however, pain becomes a continuing part of life. Such is the case when it comes to chronic pain. A person who is dealing with chronic pain may suffer with it for months or even years. In fact, some people deal with chronic pain for an entire lifetime. When pain lasts like this, a person may experience regular feelings of sadness, irritation, and even hopelessness. In time, he may become depressed.


The primary connection between chronic pain and depression is one of cause and effect. In many cases, dealing with chronic pain can be overwhelming and make it difficult for people to enjoy their lives. Even taking care of routine tasks and working may become difficult when a person is dealing with chronic pain. As such, many people who have conditions that cause long-term pain also struggle with depression.

Unfortunately, the connection between chronic pain and depression may not end with a person’s discomfort contributing to his depression. An individual’s depression may also contribute to his pain. Depression often serves to intensify a person’s pain and make coping with it more difficult. In some cases, depression may even seem to cause a person to experience other types of pain. For example, a depressed person may notice aches and pains in other parts of the body that were previously unaffected by his diagnosed illness, injury, or condition.

When a person is dealing with both chronic pain and depression, these issues may seem to take over his entire life. For example, an individual may feel tired and uncomfortable for most the time and have difficulty participating in events he enjoys. In fact, he may lose interest in things he previously enjoyed altogether.

Sometimes a person with both chronic pain and depression may turn to unhealthy methods of dealing with these issues, such as consuming drugs and alcohol. There are healthier ways to deal with pain and depression, however. For example, a doctor may prescribe antidepressants that may not only help relieve depression, but also help change a person’s perception of pain. Exercise and mental health counseling may prove helpful as well.



Discuss this Article

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?