When you think of chronic pain, you might only picture the physical side of it. While people with chronic pain are certainly familiar with physical pain, many of them also experience mental health struggles as well. The truth is that depression due to chronic pain is all too common in these situations.
So, what is the connection between depression and chronic pain? And what are the treatment options for people with chronic pain who need help with their mental health? In this blog, we tell you everything you need to know about depression due to chronic pain and, most importantly, how the Vance Johnson Recovery Center can get you the help you need to balance your physical and emotional wellbeing.
The Connection Between Depression and Chronic Pain
People with chronic pain experience symptoms of physical pain constantly and for a prolonged period of time. Chronic pain can come as the result of an injury, a disability, an illness, and so on. Unfortunately, in most situations, there is no “easy fix” for chronic pain—for many people with chronic pain, they have to cope with the idea that they will have pain possibly for the rest of their lives.
As you can imagine, dealing with any type of pain is an extreme challenge because it directly interferes with your ability to do the things you might normally be able to do, such as shopping or going out on a date. Additionally, many people with chronic pain are unable to predict when they might experience a flare up. This shows that chronic pain is not just a physical problem. Instead, it is something that can affect you socially, financially, and emotionally.
The connection between depression and chronic pain can be explained by a number of reasons. As stated earlier, chronic pain can have a significant impact on your life, which may leave you feeling isolated or lonely. Chronic pain can also worsen pre-existing mental health conditions depending on the treatment approaches for the physical pain.
For instance, doctors frequently prescribe opioids or pain killers as a quick-fix remedy for people with chronic pain. While pain medication is sometimes essential to managing the physical pain symptoms, it also comes with the high risk of addiction. This is especially true in cases where someone has depression due to chronic pain. Chronic pain, depression or anxiety, and substance use disorders can be a deadly combination when left untreated.
Symptoms of Depression
Understanding the symptoms of depression is essential when learning about depression due to chronic pain. The symptoms of depression can vary depending on the type of depression you have as well as its severity and if you have any co-occurring disorders. The symptoms of depression often look like:
- Disinterest in hobbies, activities, etc.
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Lack of appetite
- Extreme sadness and anxiety
- Feelings of hopelessness
Keep in mind that the symptoms of depression are not just emotional and behavioral. Actually, depression can cause you to have body aches, migraines, and other expressions of physical pain. As a result of this, it is often challenging for people with chronic pain to recognize that they are struggling with depression. It is hard to know the difference between a chronic pain body ache and one that happens because of mental health struggles.
This is why it is important to find treatment for the physical and emotional symptoms. Though mental health treatment won’t address the root cause of your chronic pain, it can help you to alleviate some of the extra symptoms that come from depression or anxiety.
Chronic Pain and Addiction
As with depression, struggles with addiction often happen for people with chronic pain. There are a few different reasons as to why this is the case. For example, if you have depression due to chronic pain but you aren’t sure how to address the symptoms, you might turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like using drugs or alcohol to numb the physical and emotional pain. In this case, depression and addiction would be co-occurring disorders. However, substance use can actually make your depression or anxiety symptoms much harder to handle and even cause long-term, permanent mental health complications.
Another reason why addiction is such a common struggle for people with chronic pain is because of prescription medications that are meant to treat the physical pain but instead lead to further struggles. As stated earlier, doctors will prescribe opioids and other controlled substances as symptomatic treatment for chronic pain. Many people who take these do not even recognize when they begin to abuse them, since they were legally prescribed.
Additionally, these medications are highly addictive to begin with but when they are the only form of treatment for chronic pain, it becomes even harder (and sometimes dangerous) to stop using them. After all, nobody wants to experience pain. This is why it is so important to find the right chronic pain and mental health treatment.
Treatment Options for Depression Due to Chronic Pain
Treating any mental illness in people with chronic pain should always include an approach to both emotional and physical comfort. Treatment options for depression and co-occurring substance use disorders can include:
- Pain management— This approach is meant to handle the physical symptoms of chronic pain during your treatment program, especially if certain medications meant to alleviate pain interfere with your sobriety. Treating pain is just as important as treating your mental health concerns. Depression due to chronic pain will continue to be an issue if the pain aspect is not also addressed.
- Antidepressant medications—When used as prescribed and under medical supervision, antidepressant medications can actually help with the symptoms of depression and physical pain. The side effects of antidepressant medications can be serious and you should always report any changes in thoughts or behaviors to a mental health professional.
- Physical activity—Not only can the right type of physical activity help with pain management and boost your nervous system, but it can also reduce stress. This in turn will ease the symptoms of depression or anxiety.
- Talk therapy — This traditional therapeutic approach is proven to be extremely effective for addiction and other mental health struggles. Talking to a mental health professional is also useful for treating pain. While talk therapy does not necessarily change the root cause of the physical pain, it can help you to better understand your body so that the pain is not as scary when it does happen.
- Learning coping skills — Perhaps most essential to your long-term recovery goals is learning coping skills. These include things like mindfulness, talking to a friend, and finding the right pain management techniques. If you can manage your mental health and your physical pain through the use of different coping skills, you will be able to face any challenge.
We’re Here To Help With Depression Due to Chronic Pain
The mental health professionals at the Vance Johnson Recovery Center work hard to give you a complete physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery experience. Here, you will experience the benefits of individual counseling sessions, group therapy, pain management, discharge planning, and more.
Located in dynamic Las Vegas, Nevada, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC) a 44-bed facility is run by a skilled multi-disciplinary team of medical and behavioral health professionals that includes nurses, counselors, and doctors, along with complementary and alternative medicine specialists to provide our clients with a transformational experience that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. Our approach is holistic and grounded in research and evidenced-based best practices that help people develop the awareness and skills required to achieve and sustain recovery.