Depression is a serious condition affecting millions of Americans each year. Often mistaken for ordinary sadness, depression is a medical condition that can become debilitating. People who experience depression often have trouble eating and sleeping. They lose interest in the world around them, including activities they previously enjoyed. People with severe depression may also be at risk of committing suicide.
Depression has numerous causes and triggers. A common cause for clinical depression is chronic pain. People who live with chronic back pain caused by disc protrusion, degenerative spine, osteoarthritis and other similar conditions are often at risk for depression.
If you think you may be clinically depressed, don’t lose hope. Here are some guidelines to help you overcome this severe but treatable condition.
Understanding the link between chronic pain and depression
When attempting to deal with depression, some people find it helpful to understand how they became depressed in the first place. For people who have chronic pain, depression and the pain itself can often become a vicious cycle, with one condition feeding the other.
The reasons a person with chronic pain may become depressed go far beyond the emotional. Chronic pain can actually trigger your brain to alter the hormones it releases, leading to reduced energy and poor mood. Chronic pain may also keep you from sleeping well or at all; sleep deprivation is also a major contributor to depression.
Once clinical depression sets in, it can serve to magnify the amount of physical pain felt, and may even cause new physical pain to appear. A person may abandon pain therapy out of apathy or a feeling of hopelessness. When these two things happen, it can make a difficult situation all but unbearable.
The good news for people with both chronic back pain and clinical depression is that there are a number of treatment options available. There are also steps you can take right now that can help you get a handle on your pain and depression:
- Make a plan – One of the most difficult symptoms of chronic pain and depression is a feeling that you are not in control of your own life. Often, just making a plan to address the stress of the problem and sticking to it can be the first step toward making a recovery.
- Consult a physician – Most individuals with chronic pain are already under medical care, but if you aren’t, a physician should be your first stop if you feel you are experiencing depression. There are a number of medications available to treat depression, and some can also help with your chronic pain. If you already see a physician for your pain, make sure to inform him or her about your depression as soon as possible so that he or she can recommend a treatment plan.
- Stay active – When people are depressed and in pain, often they don’t feel like engaging in life at all. They avoid activity of all kinds – physical, social and mental – as much as possible. If your depression and pain have caused you to withdraw from life, try to push yourself to engage in activities you previously enjoyed. Leading an active lifestyle can help your body heal itself, and participating in enjoyable activities can help lift your mood.
Another way to help cope with depression is to try to keep a healthy perspective. Often, depressed people will engage in negative self-talk and feel responsible for their own condition. Try to remember that depression is not a moral failing, nor is it something that you brought on yourself. Depression is a disease that can affect anyone. Being depressed is not your fault, and there are treatments available that can put you on a path toward healing.