Friday, August 19, 2016

Depression & Chronic Pain: 5 Tips on Removing Thoughts of Isolation

Do you ever feel as if you’re all alone when you see your friends and family living their lives without a chronic pain disease? Do you ever find yourself feeling isolated, numb, and shut off from reality because no one understands what you’re going through? Have you ever asked yourself, “why me?” I would like to resolve these thoughts with a simple comment, “you are [not] alone.” In fact, According to some estimates, more than 50% of depressed patients who visit general practitioners complain only of physical symptoms, and in most cases the symptoms include pain. Some studies suggest that if physicians tested all pain patients for depression, they might discover 60% of those patients suffer from undetected depression. That is a statistically significant number! So please repeat after me, “I am not alone.” Did that help? Well, if not, hopefully by the end of this article you will be chanting that with confidence.

The convergence of depression and pain happens within the circuitry of the nervous system [1]. In the experience of pain, communication between body and brain goes both ways. Typically, the brain diverts signals of physical discomfort so that we can concentrate on the external world. When this shutoff mechanism is impaired, physical sensations, including pain, are more likely to become the center of attention. Brain pathways that handle the reception of pain signals, including the bed of emotions in the limbic region, use some of the same neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood, especially serotonin, and norepinephrine [3]. When homeostasis fails, pain is intensified along with sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety. And chronic pain, like chronic depression, can alter the functioning of the nervous system and perpetuate itself [4].

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