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Is depression exacerbated by pain?

Posted Oct 14 2011 12:49pm
Of course it is. Silly question, but I'm in too much pain to think of a clever title. I learned to have a high tolerance to pain, it's one of those skills you develop in an abusive marriage, so that's how I know when I'm in trouble with pain...when it gets in the way. My spine is in bad shape, and the pain is wearing me down. I have a congenital spinal problem ( scoliosis ), degenerative disk disease (actually a scary title for a "normal" condition), and I'm developing arthritis inside my spinal column ( spinal stenosis ). It seems that perhaps all this has been worsened by 15 years of, ahem, "relations" with a man who was 6'4" and weighed from 250 lbs in the beginning to 450 lbs by the time I left. That's actually the cause that was given to me when I first had a ruptured disk in 1995. (I kid you not!) The depression side of things has been under control, but as the pain worsens and my ability to function is lessened, it's greatly affecting my feelings of self worth. I can't stand long enough to do all my baking, cooking and cleaning...a huge part of my identity. Of course everyone in the house is kind and understanding, except me. I just don't know how to be kind and patient with myself. I had a Healing Touch treatment (and of course will continue to do so), and am using an essential oil blend for anti-inflammatory (can't remember what it is right now, don't feel like looking it up, if you really want to know I'll find out). I've also started some physical therapy. I was doing so much better, almost pain free until I had to take Rachel to the ER for severe ear pain and ended sitting for about 8½ hours (6 in the ER and 2½ in the car). The pain came raging back. At least it's not radiating down my legs...yet. When that happens I know I'll be in big trouble. According to a question/answer article on  the Mayo Clinic website: (italics added for emphasis)
Pain and the problems it causes can wear you down over time, and may begin to affect your mood. Chronic pain causes a number of problems that can lead to depression, such as trouble sleeping and stress. Disabling pain can cause low self-esteem due to work, legal or financial issues. Depression doesn't just occur with pain resulting from an injury. It's also common in people who have pain linked to a health condition such as diabetes or migraines. 
This portion of an article in Harvard Health Publications also addresses the relationship between pain and depression.
Pain is depressing, and depression causes and intensifies pain. People with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing psychiatric symptoms — usually mood or anxiety disorders — and depressed patients have three times the average risk of developing chronic pain.
Part of my home care routine from physical therapy is to lie down for 20 minutes with a heat pack every fracking hour. I just can't get anything done with a schedule like that. I'm pretty sure I'm more cranky and frustrated than depressed. I haven't had time to call around to find a new psychiatrist, I haven't baked bread, I can barely stand long enough to do the dishes....whine, whine, whine. Kind of makes the old days of self-medicating into oblivion look good. That last statement alone, proves that pain is not conducive to good mental health. Don't worry, I won't go that far, but damn, I sure wish this would go away.
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