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The Negative Effects of Pain on Depression

Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 4th 2007

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Feb 2007, Vol. 55, Issue 2, pg. 202 – 211) may have important implications for people who are depressed. Researchers studying adults aged 60 and older found that physical pain, particularly when it was significant enough to interfere with normal daily activities, caused people who were already depressed to feel much worse (and report more severe depressive symptoms). In addition, pain interfered with recovery from depression when people were being actively treated for their symptoms. In other words, people with pain did not respond to treatment for depression as well as people without pain.

Even though the group of people studied were older adults, the take-home message from this study is most likely important for other age groups as well. If you are someone who is depressed and have another medical condition that causes physical pain (no matter your age), make sure to report your symptoms to your primary care doctor. Effectively treating your pain can impact your mood, and may help to decrease your depressive symptoms. In addition, effective pain control is an important part of your antidepressant treatment regimen (whether that is medication and/or psychotherapy, or other strategies).


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