Mental Illness and Chronic Pain
We ran across this exceptional post and wanted to share it with you. We resonate deeply with the author, Ms. Darisse Smith. Her words mirror our mission here at A Healing Place – The Estates and our Triple Diagnosis Chronic Pain Management Program.
Ms. Smith has been in the trenches both literally and figuratively and she did an excellent job covering this challenging topic. She highlights one of the major components of chronic pain management that we believe must be addressed in order to effectively help chronic pain patients: coexisting mental health disorders that are not identified or treated effectively.
A major problem we see is that most chronic pain patients are only given the “bio-medical” approach to managing their pain: medications, shots, interventional procedures, physical therapy etc. Indeed, this is an important component, but only addresses 1/3 of the problem. We believe two other areas must be addressed: (1) Identifying and managing the psychological/emotional symptoms of chronic pain; and (2) Helping chronic pain patients develop proactive nonpharmacological interventions.
Depression is one of the psychological/emotional conditions that most often gets overlooked. Ms. Smith stated something very powerful about chronic pain and depression that we’d like to share here:
“There is evidence that depression and pain share similar biological pathways, meaning that it can be difficult for a doctor to discern between symptoms of depression and symptoms of feeling hopeless in pain. Other shared symptoms of chronic pain and depression include: insomnia, weight and appetite changes and changes in energy and libido. Sometimes this leads to either a patient’s pain not being taken seriously or it leads to a doctor missing an underlying psychiatric disorder. Because of the similar symptoms, researchers can’t accurately determine the overall number of Americans who are suffering from chronic pain and depression. It is estimated that 15 million Americans, or 6.7% of the population suffer from depression. The rates of depression among pain patients is estimated to be approximately 35%.”
Other coexisting problems we often see with chronic pain patients are:
- Medication management problems up to and including addiction
- Unresolved trauma history e.g., PTSD
- Serious Depression
- Anxiety Disorders
- Sleep Disorders
- Personality Disorders
- Cognitive impairment from living with chronic pain 24/7
- Eating Disorders
Ms. Smith concludes her post with a very powerful message.
“If you are struggling with any mental health symptoms and chronic pain, consider adding a psychologist or psychiatrist to your treatment team. Also, always know that you are not alone. There are thousands, if not millions of us, struggling along with you. Reach out. We are here.”
Written By: Darisse Smith, who is a contributor to the National Pain Report and an Army veteran who has suffered from chronic pain for over a decade.
Posted at National Pain Report.com website on January 12, 2017. You can read her entire post Here