The best way to stop the cycle of chronic pain and depression is to prevent one triggering the other in the first place. Prevention requires a patient and their health care provider(s) to be pro-active:
- People who are more prone to depression are more vulnerable to developing a chronic pain problem. If they begin to experience regular pain, they may want to talk to their doctor about an early treatment that will prevent the nervous system from establishing a well-worn pain pathway.
- People who are diagnosed with a chronic pain condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis may want to talk to their doctor about a treatment plan addresses mental health as well as physical health.
In particular, patients are recommended to talk to their doctor if they experience any of the following common symptoms of depression:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in mood (e.g. anxiety, depression, hopelessness)
Pain and depression can feed each other, creating a downward spiral that can be difficult to stop. A person may feel that their pain is in control of their life, which may lead to major depression. Once depressed, this person may feel even more out of control and sink deeper emotionally.
People who are aware of their early symptoms and work with their doctor to take a proactive treatment approach can help minimize the chances of a chronic pain-depression spiral.