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How Depression Can Increase Pain Sensitivity

How Depression Can Increase Pain SensitivityAccording to research conducted by the Harvard Medical School depression contributes greatly increases the effects of headaches, backaches or arthritis. However, the report entitled Depression and Pain published in the September 2004 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter also indicates that people often withhold their depression when being treated for pain.

The report indicates a clear relationship between pain and depression, and suggests that the combination changes both brain function and behavior. TheHarvardMedicalSchoolreport stated that when depression is treated, then pain often fades; when pain fades, so does much of the suffering that causes depression.

Information About Pain

According to the American Pain Foundation, an estimated 50 million Americans annually suffer from persistent pain. Chronic pain lasts for an extended period of time and is unassociated with the original event that caused pain. Someone with chronic pain experiences any of the following symptoms:

  • Tense muscles
  • Anger
  • Limited mobility
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of energy
  • Depression
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fear of re-injury

Chronic pain affects a person physically, emotionally and behaviorally.

Depression and Pain

In a study of over 25,000 patients at 15 primary care centers on five continents,Seattleresearchers found that 50% of all depressed patients worldwide report multiple unexplained physical symptoms. Dr. Stephen M. Stahl, associate professor of psychiatry at theUniversityofCalifornia San Diego, explains that the physical pain of depression comes from specific nerve pathways controlled by serotonin and norepinephrine. Due to depression, these neurotransmitters become dysfunctional and operate inefficiently. As a result, routine sensory input is interpreted as uncomfortable or even painful when in fact nothing is wrong.

Treating Depression and Pain

To control symptoms of pain and depression, you need to treat each condition. Some strategies that can be effective include the following:

  • Psychological counseling (psychotherapy)
  • Stress-reduction techniques, meditation, yoga and tai chi
  • Simplifying your life
  • Journaling can improve mood by allowing you to express pain, anger, fear or other emotions
  • Joining a support group
  • Participating in social activities and regularly getting together with family or friends
  • Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep

Treatment for co-occurring pain and depression may be most effective when it combines many treatments.

Help for Depression and Pain

Treating both depression and pain requires an integrated approach that explores the sources of depression and how it affects pain. If you or someone you know experience pain and depression, call our toll-free helpline today. We are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatment, so give us a call now.

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