Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest, which can contribute to or exacerbate physical pain.

The basics

Depression associated with persistent pain is a common condition that affects many people. Living with chronic pain can take a toll on a person's mental health, leading to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and isolation. The pain can make it difficult to enjoy activities or interact with others, which can worsen feelings of depression. It's important to seek help if you are experiencing symptoms of depression associated with persistent pain, as there are effective treatments available that can help improve both your mental and physical health.

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Depression can present in a variety of ways, and the symptoms can vary from person to person. Some common symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite, weight gain or loss
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

These symptoms can be mild or severe and can significantly impact daily functioning and quality of life. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to seek professional help.

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Therapies & treatments

Interdisciplinary Pain Care

This approach involves a team of healthcare professionals, including physicians, psychologists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists, working together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for individuals with persistent pain and depression.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT can help individuals develop acceptance and mindfulness skills to manage pain and depression symptoms and identify and commit to personal values.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It can be helpful in managing both depression and chronic pain by teaching coping skills and helping individuals develop a more positive outlook.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR is a form of meditation-based therapy that can help individuals with persistent pain manage stress and improve their mood.


Antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) can be prescribed to help alleviate depression symptoms in individuals with persistent pain.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy can help individuals with persistent pain and depression manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life by developing strategies for managing daily activities and modifying the environment to reduce pain triggers.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

TMS is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique that has been shown to be effective in treating depression. It involves using magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain.


Working with a registered dietitian to develop a healthy eating plan can be helpful in managing both persistent pain and depression symptoms. A dietitian can recommend foods that are anti-inflammatory and nutrient-dense, which can help reduce pain and improve mood.

Sleep Support

Sleep disturbances are common in individuals with persistent pain and depression. A sleep specialist can work with individuals to improve sleep quality, which can in turn improve mood and reduce pain symptoms. This may involve developing a regular sleep routine, addressing sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, and implementing relaxation techniques before bed.

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Self-care strategies

Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity, such as walking, swimming, or yoga, can help to improve mood, reduce stress, and alleviate pain symptoms.

Stress Management

Stress can exacerbate symptoms of depression and pain, so learning stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation can be an effective way to manage pain and improve mood.

Healthy Eating

Eating a balanced diet can help to reduce inflammation and promote overall health and wellbeing, which can improve mood and alleviate pain symptoms. It may be helpful to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your diet, while avoiding processed foods, sugar, and alcohol.

Sleep Hygiene

Practicing good sleep hygiene, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding stimulating activities before bed, and creating a comfortable sleep environment, can help improve sleep quality, which can improve mood and reduce pain symptoms.

Social Support

Building a support network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals can help provide emotional support and practical assistance in managing pain and depression. Joining support groups or seeking out mental health professionals can also be helpful in managing pain-related stress and improving overall quality of life.

Creative Outlets

Engaging in creative activities such as art, music, or writing can be an effective way to manage pain and improve mood by providing a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR, a meditation-based therapy, can help individuals focus on the present moment, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve mood and pain symptoms.

Time Management

Managing time effectively can help to reduce stress and improve overall quality of life. Prioritizing tasks and breaking them into manageable pieces can help individuals feel more in control and reduce feelings of overwhelm.

Relaxation Techniques

Engaging in relaxation techniques such as hot baths, massage, or aromatherapy can help to reduce muscle tension, alleviate pain symptoms, and improve mood.


Engaging in self-care activities such as taking a walk in nature, reading a book, or practicing a hobby can help to improve mood and reduce stress. It is important to prioritize self-care as part of a comprehensive pain and depression management plan.

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