With pain comes a host of other issues—limitations where there weren’t any before in all sorts of areas. You might start to feel like a physical and financial burden to the people around you. It’s no wonder that chronic pain and depression often go hand in hand.
It’s important to treat both chronic pain AND depression. You might be tempted to think that if your pain would only disappear, your depression would follow it right out the door. But that isn’t necessarily the case. This study found that a course of antidepressants combined with self-pain management reduced patients’ depression and pain.
Dealing with two problems at once can seem overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help you out:
Find doctors who can deal with each problem
If you haven’t yet, consult a pain specialist for a treatment plan, along with a mental health specialist for a proper evaluation and treatment for depression. It’s also important to communicate regularly with your providers and pay attention to changes. Look for doctors who are open to communicating with each other about your treatment.
Don’t trust “miracle cures”
There a lot of people out there who are more than willing to take your money in exchange for a pill or cream that will make you completely pain-free within hours. I could fill an entire blog post just with so-called remedies that claim to cure all pain and depression.
Unfortunately, there’s a very slim chance that these so-called miracle cures will deliver on their promises. It’s far more likely that these treatments will frustrate you, offer no relief, and put a serious dent in your pocketbook. Instead, focus on known prescription and alternative treatments that actually work.
Change your pain vocabulary
It can be tempting to think negative thoughts like, “This pain is ruining my life” or “My body is falling apart”. But don’t give into temptation! Such thoughts are not only likely to make your depression worse, but they will also actually change your perception of the severity of your pain.
Ask your mental health provider about CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy). This form of therapy can help you to re-teach your brain to think about your pain in a more positive light.
Learn how to relax
Taking the time to relax is important, but often we turn run toward movies, TV, and video games as a way to do it. Unfortunately these activities are not usually conducive to true relaxation—they tempt us to sit or lay in uncomfortable positions, and the subject matter of most TV and movies these days is anything but calming (have you seen Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones?).
True relaxation involves concentration and slow, deep breathing. This helps to release tension from muscles and relieve pain. Learning to relax takes practice, but relaxation training can focus attention away from pain and release tension from all muscles. Meditation is a great way to acquire relaxation skills, and YouTube is full of free videos to help you get started.
People with chronic pain are especially susceptible to depression, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. But now it’s up to you to take charge of both problems by consulting the appropriate medical professionals, refusing the temptation to chase after miracle cures, reframing the way you think about your pain, and not only taking the time to relax but learning how to do it properly.