Depression, not neuroticism, is found to be more responsible for exaggeration in remembering painful physical symptoms, according to a recent study from the University of Iowa.
During a study, women participants were asked to describe any of 15 usual physical symptoms they felt every day for three weeks. When asked to recall how often they had felt the physical symptoms over the past three weeks, the women overexaggerated the extent to which they had felt the pain and how often.
Usually, people would attribute this to neuroticism but it was found that depressed women proved to be more likely to overexaggerate than neurotic women. This might have been because depressed women usually remembered the worst part of the pain most.
Though depression can cause a lot of physical symptoms by itself, researchers made sure to exclude these type of symptoms from the study.
The findings suggest that these overexaggerated reports can affect what doctors do in response to depressed peoples’ complaints. Therefore, depressed women should write down physical symptoms as they happen in order to keep an accurate record.
It seems that depression can not only cause physical pain but can also affect memory of painful events. It is also interesting to note that some past research points to the fact that depressed people seem to feel more pain than nondepressed people. This might be due to depressed peoples’ focus on the pain as it is happening, just as they focus on the memory of physical pain.
I’ve personally heard of people who have physical pain due to depression; at least, that’s what a woman wrote in a book that my grandmother bought, called "Laughing in the Dark: A Comedian's Journey Through Depression," by Chonda Pierce. I remember reading that the woman had to be hospitalized. I find that hard to believe but accept that for some people it might be true. I always have some sort of pain in my body but never thought it was related to depression. I figure the body isn’t perfect and is bound to have pain once in a while.
However, Psychology Today also did an article on the link between pain and depression.