The mind and body are intimately connected. This is demonstrated by the two-way relationship between chronic pain and depression. The stress of chronic pain, affecting all aspects of life – the ability to work, exercise, be around others, get around, and enjoy hobbies – can lead to isolation and depression. Depression then can make the pain more intense. Conversely, the physical symptoms of depression can become chronic pain. The good news is that effective medications and therapy can help relieve depression and boost the effectiveness of pain management.

How Chronic Pain Can Cause Depression

According to the American Psychiatric Association, around 35-45% of people with chronic pain experience mental health problems, including depression. Pain that lasts beyond 3-6 months can start to affect your mental well-being, and chronic pain that goes beyond 6 months can affect your quality of life. 

Your chronic pain may negatively impact your sleep patterns and ability to perform everyday tasks. You may soon find yourself avoiding the things you used to enjoy, and instead isolate yourself from friends and family. Gradually, your mental health becomes affected by this isolation and your chronic pain has led to depression.

Depression can complicate a person’s pain condition and treatment. Both doctor and patient are typically more comfortable talking about physical symptoms than emotional ones. Physical pain symptoms can then monopolize doctor’s visits. Other issues such as depression, sleep disturbances, appetite, and activity levels don’t get much attention. 

How Depression Can Cause Chronic Pain

Even though depression is a mental health issue, it can manifest in physical symptoms as well. These symptoms can range from minor aches and pains to chest pain, recurring headaches, and unrelenting back pain. Some people with depression may show only physical symptoms without any of the typical mental symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness, angry outbursts, or suicidal thoughts. 

When only the physical symptoms are treated, the causes of depression might go ignored. This means the physical symptoms of depression will continue because their source has not yet been addressed. 

Symptoms of Both Chronic Pain and Depression

Although depression and chronic pain may manifest in a variety of ways, those who suffer from them concurrently may experience:

  • Sleep issues
  • A marked increase in problems with family, friends, and co-workers
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Unexpected weight gain or loss
  • Sudden mood changes 

It’s important to note that a few instances of symptoms do not mean you suffer from depression or chronic pain. By definition, to be diagnosed with depression, you would be experiencing your symptoms more often than not. That is, you would have more “bad days” than “good” ones. 

Chronic pain, too, is defined as lasting much longer than the typical recovery period for your injury or illness. The doctors, nurses, and technicians at The Heilman Center will help you identify the causes of your pain and support you through the process of developing a treatment plan that includes your emotional health and well-being.

The Best Treatment Methods for Chronic Pain and Depression

There’s little doubt that chronic pain and depression can become a vicious cycle when they feed off one another. This means that to treat one, you must treat the other. For some people, their chronic pain won’t go away until their mental health is addressed and treated. And for others, their depression won’t go away until their chronic pain is addressed and treated. Thankfully, there are ways to cope so you can live a happier, fuller life.

Since not all types of chronic pain and depression are the same for everyone, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the full range of your treatment options. You may need to see more than one doctor to create a holistic treatment approach.

Talk Therapy

For depression, it helps to see a therapist who specializes in talk therapy. Talk therapy can take many forms depending on your symptoms and comfort levels. Some, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), focus on taking control of your thoughts. Others, like group therapy, focus on patients helping one another through shared experiences and objective points of view while guided by a trained clinician.

The Heilman Center has psychologists on staff who understand the relationship between chronic pain and depression. We believe in giving patients the tools they need to feel better inside and out. 

Stress Reduction

Stress reduction may seem easier said than done, but some techniques are simple and easy to adapt to your lifestyle. Physical activity releases endorphins, which boost your mood. Healthier eating gives your mind and body the nutrients it needs to function at peak levels. 

When your body is cared for, your emotional health will feel better, too. Managing stress reduces the mental and physical symptoms of depression, which in turn can help to reduce chronic pain.

Pain Management Programs

Addressing both chronic pain and depression requires a specialized pain management program. The doctors, nurses, and technicians at The Heilman Center take the time to listen to you so we can develop a plan that is personalized to your specific needs. Our pain treatments include both your physical and mental symptoms of chronic pain, including depression. We know that you are a whole person and we treat you as such.


Because of the link between chronic pain and depression, some doctors will treat both problems with antidepressant medications. Antidepressants work by blocking your body’s reabsorption (“reuptake”) of serotonin and norepinephrine. These two neurotransmitters/hormones help your mind and body function properly by telling your nervous system what to do. When they are reabsorbed, they can’t travel through your bloodstream in healthy doses. Antidepressants block this reabsorption, thereby increasing serotonin and norepinephrine to healthier levels.

There are different classes of antidepressants, and not all of them are prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain. The class known as “tricyclic” is the most commonly prescribed, and usually in lower doses than would be used for the treatment of depression.

The Heilman Center Can Help

Chronic pain and depression don’t have to control your life. The experienced and caring staff at The Heilman Center is here to help you feel better both physically and emotionally. We use only the highest quality, hospital-grade resources available. We know that every minute you’re in pain is another minute lost, and that’s why we’re committed to on-time appointments and easy access to our facilities.

Take back your life. Call us today at 734-725-2009 or contact us online to find out how we can help you manage your pain.