September is Pain Awareness Month, and it’s time to shed some light onto the struggles of people who live with pain, especially chronic pain. One aspect of chronic pain that is not discussed nearly enough is the mental health connection.
The mind is certainly not separate from the body. And for people with chronic pain, sometimes the mind-body connection turns sour. In fact, people suffering from chronic pain are at a higher risk for mental health issues and disorders, according to Mayo Clinic.
If you’ve ever pulled a muscle in your back, try to imagine living with that pain daily for years with little to no relief.
Here are five examples of chronic pain and how they can impact mental health. They're also examples of how mental health issues can in turn affect or lead to chronic pain.
1) If you already have depression, chronic pain can make symptoms worse and can also be a risk factor for suicide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
People with depression are also known to have more body aches, and more pain in general. Physical symptoms of depression include cramps, gastrointestinal problems and headaches that aren’t generally treatable.
2) Harvard Medical School also points out that pain itself can be depressing. If you think about it, pain limits activity and sometimes limits social interaction, which can lead to low mood. Depression can also just make pain that much worse.
3) On another note, pain and depression, as well as other mental health issues like anxiety and insomnia, are treated by the same or similar medications, according to Harvard Medical School.
For example, amitriptyline is an antidepressant that is sometimes used to help people in pain. This demonstrates the biological/chemical link between physical pain and the mind.
4) A 2013 Canadian study found that younger, unmarried adults with migraines who had activity limitations were more likely to have depression and suicidal thoughts.