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How Chronic Pain Affects Depression

May 05, 2020 | Texas Partners Healthcare Group

Symptoms of Depression Often Worsen With Chronic Pain

For better or for worse, pain is a natural part of life. Everyone has experienced pain at least once, even if it’s something as minor as a paper cut. However, there are those that suffer from constant pain. Chronic pain affects roughly 50 million U.S. adults. This pain is often debilitating, keeping people from completing everyday tasks, and reducing their quality of life. While the physical effects of chronic pain are apparent, there is not nearly enough emphasis on the impact it has on an individual’s mental health.

As we have stated before, your brain and body are intrinsically connected. Chronic pain has quite an impact on your brain. Research has shown that chronic pain changes your brain activity in ways different than acute pain. As these changes occur, it’s no surprise to see that they also affect your mental health, leading to increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. Those that already struggle with depression see their symptoms increased.

Your physical health should be a priority whenever you are dealing with chronic pain. However, you should not ignore pain’s impact on your mental health. At Texas Partners Healthcare Group, we consider your entire health when crafting a treatment plan for you, including your mental health. We will create a plan that will not only help you manage your chronic pain but also manage your depression caused by your pain, as well.

What is Chronic Pain?

Pain is considered chronic if it lasts for over 12 weeks. Unlike acute pain, which goes away shortly after your injury or condition has healed, chronic pain lasts for weeks to months on end. Your body continues to send pain signals to your brain long after your injury has healed. Many things can lead to chronic pain. Some of the most common types of chronic pain are:

Chronic pain can be experienced in a host of different ways for a myriad of reasons. If you suffer from chronic pain that has either exacerbated your depression symptoms or caused depression, contact Texas Partners Healthcare Group to receive expert pain management treatment.

Chronic Pain and Depression

Researchers once believed that mental illnesses were the result of only psychological factors. However, over time, many healthcare professionals have learned that biological factors, such as chronic pain, can lead to increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. After all, chronic pain can be debilitating and reduce your quality of life, which is depressing. On the other hand, depression and other mental illnesses can be physically painful. Depression and chronic pain are intricately linked.

Chronic pain disrupts your sleep. Whenever you do not receive the necessary hours of sleep, your brain isn’t capable of recovering and replenishing itself like it should, causing it to strain and stress. Additionally, pain has been known to cause irritability. You may begin to recognize that you are lashing out at those around you, even your loved ones.

While pain naturally causes feelings of anxiety and irritation, chronic pain elicits stronger emotional reactions. You may feel constantly stressed, which causes your muscles to feel stressed, as well.

Pain and depression share some of the same neurotransmitters, which act as the brain’s messengers traveling through the nerves. Chronic pain forces you to struggle with some key aspects of life that are lost, such as your mobility, quality of life, your ability to complete everyday activities, and much more. Depression can make your body more sensitive to pain.

You must be upfront with your doctor about both your chronic pain and depression so that neither is ignored when creating a pain management plan.


You must let your pain management provider know about your depression when seeking pain management treatment. Treating both chronic pain and depression can be challenging, as focusing on a patient’s pain may force attention away from their mental health. Often, treatments for depression and chronic pain will need to be done together to get the best results possible. Some treatments that have been known to help with depression and pain include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT centers on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and sensations are all connected. It’s known for being a treatment option for those with anxiety and depression, but it has also been studied and proven to be an effective psychotherapy for pain management. In these therapy sessions, therapists will help patients learn new ways to cope with their pain.


Mindfulness is an excellent way to help reduce symptoms of depression while also relieving pain. When you are depressed, it causes your muscles to stress, which in turn causes your pain to increase. Practicing mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation allows you to destress your mind, which destresses your body. Yoga is also a great form of mindfulness.


While this may seem counterintuitive at first, exercise is an excellent way to manage your depression symptoms. Exercise releases your body’s feel-good chemicals, endorphins, which boosts your mood. Many people are afraid to exercise for fear that it may worsen their pain. However, certain exercises, such as yoga and physical therapy, can help keep your body healthy and reduce symptoms of pain. Many studies have highlighted just how impactful exercise can be in pain management.


Some medications have proven to treat depression and pain. However, many patients may take medication for their depression and their pain separately, but you must discuss with your providers to ensure that there are no dangerous drug interactions. Talk with your provider to learn more about your medication options.

Chronic pain can be physically exhausting, but it can also have an impact on your mental health. It often leads to depression and makes those who already suffer from it experience worsened symptoms. If you need pain management treatment, contact Texas Partners Healthcare Group today. Remember to mention any depression you may be experiencing so that our providers can craft a program that helps ease your physical and mental symptoms.