Mental Health and Chronic Pain

Chronic pain and mental health are intertwined wellness paths. Although the two are often connected, for example, those with chronic pain are prone to depression and those with depression may manifest physical, chronic pain. Many treatment options do not address both physical and mental pain concurrently.

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is pain that lasts for over 12 weeks. Chronic pain reaches beyond physical injuries and includes such ailments as heart disease, arthritis, migraines, and diabetes. Many individuals suffering from chronic pain are not aware of its links to mental health or feel it is too complicated to treat both their psychological and physical wellbeing. Instead, they frequently avoid discussing mental problems with their doctors.

What is Mental Health?

Mental health includes an individual’s state of psychological and emotional health and wellness. Mental health issues range from bipolar disorder to depression or anxiety. An estimated 15 million Americans suffer from depression. Depression can be directly associated with chronic pain, as those with pain are three times more likely to develop depression.

Links Between Mental Health and Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can make individuals feel alone (or feel the need to isolate themselves), helpless, hopeless and uncertain about the future which can ultimately lead to depression. An estimated 35-50 percent of people facing chronic pain also struggle with depression and anxiety. This link stems from similar biological pathways for those in pain and those with depression. When an individual struggles with chronic pain, they can suffer from insomnia and guilt, which can begin a cycle of depression. Once the cycle begins, it is difficult to break.

There are other shared symptoms of chronic pain, anxiety, and depression that make it difficult to differentiate what is mental vs. physical. Shared symptoms include:

  • Weight and appetite changes
  • Changes in energy and libido
  • Insomnia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Muscle tension
  • Body soreness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Symptoms can be sudden or come-and-go. Once the cycle of mental and physical wellness strains begins, it is difficult to reverse.

Tips for Coping with Mental & Physical Pain

  • Research and become educated about your condition to avoid the fear of the unknown
  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Make time for yourself
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help and develop a support system
  • Practice mindfulness

To fully heal, individuals must integrate their care options. At New Health Services we emphasize our comprehensive care model and believe in treating the whole person. If you or someone you know struggles with mental or physical health, schedule an appointment with us today