How Chronic Pain Leads to Depression

Chronic pain, which can be caused by arthritis, has a close relationship with depression. Together they create a cause-and-effect cycle that can seriously complicate the ability to manage one's mental and physical health.

Depressed Man
Chronic pain can lead to depression, which in turn can lead to more pain.

This blog post focuses on one-half of the chronic pain-depression cycle to examine how chronic pain triggers depression. A future blog post will discuss how depression can lead to more chronic pain.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is any type of pain that lasts for an extended period, which can be months or even years. It can be directly related to a measurable physical problem, such as joint inflammation, but it can also occur where there is no obvious physical cause.

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The connections from chronic pain to depression

It may seem pretty obvious that such pain would cause its sufferers to develop depression. But it's important to understand some of the individual factors that lead to depression, so the cycle can be broken.

These factors—which can occur because of chronic pain and trigger depression—act as links in the chain for the pain-depression cycle. Doctors refer to these as "secondary losses." Here are just a few examples:

  • Fatigue (See Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fatigue)
  • Uncertainty about when pain will occur or end
  • Isolation
  • Work and financial stress
  • Medication side effects
  • Family strain

If you experience feelings of sadness or worthlessness, loss of interest, poor sleep or appetite, fatigue, or other depressive symptoms every day for more than two weeks, you may have depression and should see your doctor.

Not only is depression treatable, but treating it can prevent it from causing more chronic pain.

Learn more

Post written by Carrie DeVries