Depression and chronic pain linked in Stanford study


January 15, 2003
Blog Entry, Brain & Behavior, Health

A persistent, long-lasting headache or an endlessly painful back may indicate something more serious than a bad week at the office. A new study finds that people who have major depression are more than twice as likely to have chronic pain when compared to people who have no symptoms of depression. This study could change how depression is diagnosed and treated, say Stanford School of Medicine researchers. From the Stanford University:Depression and chronic pain linked in Stanford study; may influence diagnosis and treatment

STANFORD, Calif. – A persistent, long-lasting headache or an endlessly painful back may indicate something more serious than a bad week at the office. A new study finds that people who have major depression are more than twice as likely to have chronic pain when compared to people who have no symptoms of depression. This study could change how depression is diagnosed and treated, say Stanford School of Medicine researchers.

“This is potentially a really important finding,” said Alan Schatzberg, MD, the Kenneth T. Norris Jr. Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, who participated in the study published in the January issue of the journal Archive of General Psychiatry. “This will change how we view pain and depression.”

Schatzberg said previously published research hinted that people with depression may be more likely to experience chronic pain and that depressed people with chronic pain may respond better to a class of drugs that treats both symptoms. If the relationship exists, then pain may be a symptom that guides doctors to the drugs they prescribe for depressed patients.

After hearing anecdotal evidence that certain drugs are more effective in depressed people who also have chronic pain, Schatzberg and his colleague Maurice Ohayon, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford School of Medicine, tested the correlation using data collected previously by Ohayon. These data included information from 18,980 people in five European countries who agreed to answer health questions over the phone.

Among the participants, 17 percent had chronic pain and 4 percent had symptoms of major depression; however, 43 percent of those with major depression also had chronic pain. Of the symptoms, headaches and backaches were most commonly found in depressed people. People who had pain for 24 hours were also more likely to have major depression, indicating that continuous pain increases the likelihood of having a major depressive disorder diagnosis.

Schatzberg said he had no idea so many of the patients he treated for depression may also need treatment for chronic pain.

“I was totally shocked,” he said. Now he’ll know to ask his depressed patients if they also have chronic pain that should be treated, he said. He added that other doctors can monitor their chronic-pain patients for symptoms of depression.

When doctors first diagnose a person with depression, they use a checklist that includes symptoms such as changes in mood, appetite and sleep patterns to determine the severity of the person’s depression along with the appropriate treatment. Schatzberg suspects that the presence of chronic pain should be added to this list as a symptom for assessing depression. He said that by more precisely diagnosing a person’s symptoms doctors have a better chance of prescribing medication that will be effective in that patient.

The question now is which comes first: the depression or the pain. “We all have a certain amount of pain,” Schatzberg said. “It could be that the perception of pain is greater in depressed people.” He pointed out that many people with depression reported more headache, back pain or limb pain rather than pain stemming from disease.

Schatzberg added that future studies will look at how people with depression and chronic pain respond to different drugs used to treat depression.

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Depression and chronic pain linked in Stanford study

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4 Responses to Depression and chronic pain linked in Stanford study

  1. kim July 20, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    Chronic pain may be consequent to various chronic diseases such as fibromyalgia, cancer, back pain, etc. So we reviewed annually by a specialist.
    Kim kardashian
    Findrxonline.com

  2. Anonymous January 8, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    The consequences that cause the disease can lead to death, and so this disease is painful and people suffering from it suffers greatly by the constant pain caused by taking medications that are opioid narcotics such as Lortab, Vicodin, hydrocodone, which are very effective in suppressing the pain that causes the disease, we hope that people care and know findrxonline adequately informed as well as notes on your site.

  3. Anonymous March 13, 2009 at 5:11 pm #

    Yeah, the hardest thing about depression is getting those around you to notice that something is wrong. They look at you physically and they don’t see what the chronic pain is doing to you. They also don’t feel what your chronic pain is really like so they want you to be able to do and go like you used to. Letting down family, friends, relatives and coworkers only adds to your depressive feelings and thoughts. When you’re in chronic pain, one of the greatest things people around you could do is to truly be supportive and not assume that you can do something about your pains at the moment they flareup. Chronic pain flareups stop everything. We sufferers of chronic pain get that. What we need our support tree to understand is that we didn’t choose to be in chronic pain. We’d much rather be relatively pain free and running around bugging the devil outta them. Once we can get the pressure of feeling like we are letting down our support tree off of us we can remove some stress and depressive feelings. That might make the need for medication an obselet treatment method for some chronic pain sufferers or at least not as much medicine needed. Depression and stress DO make the pain feel worse because you lose the energy and drive to fight it off. Being able to do that without needing drugs is the goal of the chronic pain sufferer.

    V. Holland aka CHRONIC PAIN HERO
    http://www.ChronicPainHero.4t.com

  4. Anonymous November 1, 2008 at 1:10 pm #

    Yep, my docs tried me on, well, I’m still on it, Cymbalta for it’s ability to “treat depression and offer some pain relief” at the same time. I didn’t really think I was depressed but asking me didn’t count. My family said I was and since I interact with them I kinda took their word for it. I don’t notice much difference but they say I seem a little better even though the pain flareups knock me down so often I don’t interact very much. Hmmmm, maybe that’s it. Since I don’t interact with them I don’t get on their nerves and THEY are the ones who aren’t depressed. Just have to laugh to keep from crying. This chronic pain thing, it aint no joke.

    Respectfully,
    Vini Holland aka Chronic Pain Hero
    http://www.vinicent-d-holland.4t.com
    http://www.vinholglobal.com

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