People in romantic relationships with partners who have depression are more likely to experience chronic pain, according to a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine. Researchers found both conditions often have common causes, including genetics and environmental causes.
The Link Between Chronic Pain and Depression
For the study, researchers analyzed health data from more than 100,000 participants in United Kingdom health studies. They looked at factors such as family history of chronic pain and mental health conditions, symptoms of depression and chronic pain, and experiences with romantic partners who have depression or chronic pain.
The results showed moderate heritability of chronic pain, suggesting at least some genetic component of the condition. However, spouses were also likely to share symptoms of chronic pain, pointing to environmental and stress-related causes.
The study also found a significant correlation between risk factors for depression and chronic pain. People with a family history of depression experienced chronic pain at higher rates, as did people involved in relationships with partners who experienced depression.
Understanding Chronic Painworry that a psychological origin for the pain suggests they are faking or imagining the pain, but research shows thoughts and emotions about pain can change the experience of pain.
Psychological states may also trigger pain. For example, a stressed person might unconsciously tense muscles in their back or avoid pain reduction strategies such as exercising and stretching. Numerous other health issues or medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, may also have psychological components.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 76.2 million (1 in 4) Americans have experienced chronic pain. Chronic pain plays a role in many mental health conditions, and it may affect the opioid abuse and overdose epidemic. Doctors frequently prescribe opioids for chronic pain, but these medications can quickly become addictive and some research suggests opioids may actually increase chronic pain. Psychotherapy may be a better solution for chronic pain, as studies have shown psychological treatment can change how the brain responds to the sensation of pain.
- Chronic pain linked to partners of people with depression. (2016, August 16). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160816151856.htm
- Managing chronic pain: How psychologists can help with pain management. (2013, December). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/pain-management.aspx
- Mcintosh, A. M., Hall, L. S., Zeng, Y., Adams, M. J., Gibson, J., Wigmore, E., . . . Hocking, L. J. (2016). Genetic and environmental risk for chronic pain and the contribution of risk variants for major depressive disorder: A family-based mixed-model analysis. PLOS Medicine, 13(8). doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002090
- Pain management. (2013, March 29). Retrieved from https://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=57
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