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Can chronic pain cause depression?

Most people face challenges in their lives that they must overcome in order to move on with their lives and become stronger individuals. But this can be difficult for people who are living with chronic pain. Fighting this oftentimes debilitating disease can take its toll on a person and may even lead to another disabling condition: depression.

But are the two related? Can chronic pain lead to depression as the title of this post asks? Though the question is up for debate, some scientists do believe the two are related and one could very well cause the other. Let's take a closer look to see how.

Chronic pain is characterized as "pain that lasts much longer than would be expected from the original problem or injury." When the brain experiences neurochemical changes, a person can become more sensitive to the chronic pain they are experiencing, thus worsening the condition.

Exposure to extended periods of pain can interrupt normal sleep patterns or daily activities, leaving a person feeling fatigued and not in control of their own life. In some cases, this can leadd to irritability and even depression, which comes with its own disabling symptoms for some people.

But while some researchers continue to debate whether one causes the other, some scientists do believe that depression may make the symptoms of chronic pain worse. Some patients who have depression experience an increased sensitivity to pain, meaning their chronic pain is often magnified. This intensified pain often makes patients feel even worse about their situation, which makes their depression more prominent in return.

Even though there is medication available to lessen the symptoms of both conditions, these treatments may not work in every person, leaving some unable to hold down a job or complete everyday tasks. In these types of cases, a person may require disability benefits, especially to make sure that they do not suffer financial problems because of their condition.

Source: WebMd, "Depression and Chronic Pain," Accessed Aug. 26, 2014

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