Cutting Edge Psychology

Depressed mood and chronic pain

Posted on April 8, 2014 at 8:30 PM

As stated throughout The Hidden Psychology of Pain, we are never either just physical beings or psychological beings- but are always both. The biomechanical view of the human organism almost totally ignores the psychosocial aspect, requiring a reintroduction of psychological factors in order to redress this imbalance. It may seem, therefore, that books such as mine are also committing a one-sided error by focusing almost exclusively on psychology. There are repeated references throughout my book that we are never just psychological beings, nor that we can ever ignore psychological factors. We simply need to be equipped with valid information in regards to what physical factors are genuinely associated with pain, and which ones are demonstrated through research to be merely correlational to chronic pain, e.g long standing disc pathology.

The research article linked below demonstrates the role which depressed mood can play in making us more sensitive to chronic pain. The brain processes both emotional and physical pain in similar ways. When a person is experiencing a lot of emotional pain, they are more vulnerable to experiencing chronic physical pain. Addressing the reasons why a person is experiencing emotional pain is therefore a viable treatment approach to working with chronic pain. Simply treating depression with drugs, as though it is a disorder like a flu that can be resolved with an antibiotic, is simply not likely to help. There are too many people who suffer adverse side effects to all of the prescribed antidepressants for this to be a viable option for treating even depression, not to mention chronic pain. CBT is also not likely to get to the life experiences which have resulted in depressed mood; nor is it likely to successfully treat chronic pain. Fortunately, there are a range of transformational psychotherapies which are known to successfully treat depression (and the trauma which is often underlying it), such as EMDR, Coherence Therapy, Emotion Focused Therapy, NLP, Gestalt, etc.

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