New Dimensions Day Treatment Centers

The Relationship Between Chronic Pain and Depression

Jan 18, 2023 | Adult Treatment, Depression, Mental Health

In the United States, roughly 50 million people suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain can make even simple tasks difficult, causing people to spend hours or days in bed. However, there’s more to chronic pain than just physical discomfort; it can also have a profound effect on your mental health. Depression is one of those regularly experienced effects. In fact, as many as 85% of people that suffer from chronic pain experience severe depression. In this article, we will explore why depression and chronic pain are often linked together and how these conditions, and their treatments, affect each other over time.

People who suffer from chronic pain are twice as likely to experience depression.

The relationship between chronic pain and depression is complicated. While these two conditions do not necessarily affect the same people, they are often comorbid. 

Pain can make you feel depressed. Experiencing physical discomfort or an overwhelming amount of emotional stress can take a toll on your mental health, leading you to feel down or hopeless. 

On the other hand, depression makes it harder to cope with chronic pain. When you’re depressed, it’s harder to focus on solving issues that arise from your condition as well as taking care of yourself physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, this will only make things worse over time.

Low energy and reduced interest in activities can be signs of both depression and chronic pain.

If you’re experiencing chronic pain, this may result in a lack of interest or energy for activities you used to enjoy. This can include things like exercising and going out with friends or family. Depression can also cause a loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable, as well as fatigue and low energy levels. If you notice that your energy levels are low and that you have less desire to get out of bed than usual, it may be a sign of either depression or chronic pain.

Chronic pain often builds up over a long period of time and doesn’t have a clear origin, making it hard to treat.

Chronic pain is often a result of many factors. It can be caused by an injury or illness, but it can also come from stress, anxiety, and depression. In fact, some research suggests that chronic pain may be linked to the same brain changes that are associated with depression.

Stress, poor sleep, and anxiety can worsen both depression and chronic pain.

Chronic pain and depression are closely intertwined, with each condition often worsening the other. Chronic pain symptoms include achiness and fatigue, which can lead to a poor sleep schedule. This can then lead to anxiety, which makes it even harder for someone who suffers from chronic pain to find relief.

For example, if you find yourself so tired that you struggle to wake up in time for work or school, your stress levels may increase because of the added pressure of being late. This could cause more tension in your life, which could potentially make your chronic pain worse than it already is. It’s important to note here that this isn’t just about what happens when both conditions coexist; rather, it’s about how stress triggers poor sleep habits, which may worsen both conditions simultaneously.

Pain profoundly affects how you perceive the world around you, which can feed into depression.

Pain can have a powerful effect on the way you think about yourself, the world around you, and those in it. It may lead you to withdraw from others or feel like a burden on those who care for you. These feelings can feed into depression as well. The opposite also holds true: chronic pain can make it difficult to concentrate on anything else but your physical discomfort. This can lead to negative thoughts about your body or mind and, eventually, depression.

The negative thoughts you experience when depressed may make it more difficult to cope with chronic pain.

Depression is a mood disorder that can affect your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. When you are depressed, you may feel like you’re alone and isolated. You might also view yourself as worthless or think your life is not worth living. These negative thoughts can make it more difficult to cope with chronic pain because they can cause you to avoid doing things that would help you manage your pain better. 

For example, someone with chronic pain is likely to avoid movement in order to remain as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, a total lack of movement can feed into depression-like symptoms. In addition to this, people suffering from depression are less motivated to move their bodies than someone with positive mental health. In turn, this experience has the same negative effect as the person with chronic pain. In both cases, this will only make managing chronic pain more difficult over time.

Depression may lead to changes in brain structure that then alter your ability to feel and process emotions, including physical pain.

It’s believed that changes in brain structure can alter your ability to feel and process emotions, including physical pain. Researchers have not been able to pinpoint the exact biological mechanisms behind this connection, but many believe that depression may trigger changes in the brain’s synapses—the spaces between neurons that send signals from one cell to another—and these changes are passed on from one generation of cells to another. This means you can inherit them without actually experiencing depression yourself.

Depression alters how your body processes stress hormones, which can potentially alter your body’s responses to pain.

Depression alters how your body processes stress hormones, which can potentially alter your body’s responses to pain. Stress hormones are chemicals that are released by the brain in response to stressful situations. They have many functions, including increasing blood pressure and heart rate, improving memory, and increasing feelings of pleasure or reward. 

Depression alters how your brain releases these chemicals in response to stressful situations like chronic pain. This can increase inflammation in your body, cause cortisol levels to rise (which may make you feel more pain), or change the way you process pain signals coming from different parts of the brain (like the thalamus). In addition to this, depression can cause cortisol levels in your body to rise, which can increase inflammation, resulting in more chronic pain.

Chronic pain can make even simple tasks difficult or impossible.

Pain can take a significant toll on a person’s life. It can make even the simplest tasks difficult or impossible, which can lend a hand to developing depression. Being forced to rely on others for basic necessities can be challenging for many, especially people that are younger. 

Some people deal with chronic pain so severe that they cannot use the restroom themselves. This inability to function at the level they would like can have a detrimental impact on their mental health. Additionally, for people that enjoy exercise or movement, being blocked from doing so due to intense pain can be incredibly depressing. Not being able to do even the most minor of tasks has the ability to destroy a person’s mental state.

Depression and chronic pain are two very different conditions, but in many cases, they are related. While the relationship between the two is complex, it can be seen that their attributes can impact one another. Chronic pain can cause depression and vice versa, making it vital to seek treatment if either of these conditions affects you or someone close to you. 

Antidepressants, psychological therapy, and an effective pain management plan can make a significant impact on these uncomfortable ailments.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit to learn more.