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The Chronic Pain, Depression, and Anxiety Connection



It's a real chicken and the egg situation. It's not always clear which came first, but one causes the other which worsens the other. A vicious cycle that often cannot be broken by conventional routes of medicine.


How chronic pain causes depression and anxiety

There's the obvious that chronic pain prevents you from doing the things you once loved to do. Not only can you physically not tolerate as much, but some days your pain flares are so intense that you can't leave the house, let alone get out of bed, to run errands or meet your friends for lunch. While this certainly takes a toll on your mental health, there is something much more significant at play.


It's chronic inflammation.


Chronic inflammation is at the root of ALL chronic pain, no matter how it started or what your diagnosis is. Chronic inflammation is often the cause of someone's chronic pain, but for everyone it is a major driver. Unless you can fully resolve your chronic inflammation you will not experience long term pain relief.


Every mood disorder features chronic inflammation as the trigger and primary cause of symptoms. Brain inflammation reduces blood flow, changes the biochemistry of your neurons, and causes neurons to fire and rewire inappropriately. Chronic inflammation is not just at the root of chronic pain, it is at the root of ALL chronic conditions.


How depression and anxiety cause chronic pain

Beyond the more mundane explanation, that mood disorders tend to make people more sedentary, and that sedentary lifestyles lead to pain, there is actually a significantly more scientific explanation for this.


Mood disorders come with a lot of subconscious brain activity. When we don't want to deal with emotions, we ty to forget about them. But, unlike remembering how to do long division, your brain doesn't forget emotions. It stores them in your subconscious. It feels like you've forgotten them, but your brain hasn't. As it turns out, your brain wants you to deal with your emotions more than you want to forget about them. Repressed emotions can actually cause physical pain. If you ignore all the times your brain tries to remind you of that unresolved emotion, your brain will tun to other means of getting your attention. For some people, symptoms of hives may occur, for others it may be respirator symptoms, but the ultimate symptom is pain. Pain is hard to ignore so your brain resorts to inducing physical pain to try and get your attention. But since pain feels physical, we assume it has to have come from a physical source. Therefore, chronic pain is almost given a physical treatment even if the cause is not physical.


Coming to terms with the fact that chronic pain can be caused by mental/emotional causes is difficult for many, especially since conventional medicine doesn't appreciate, or even understand, the mind-body connection. But this is where you have to consider how effective your current treatments and diagnoses have worked for you and understand that there have to be other factors at play.


This is just the tip of the iceberg. Your brain actually changes the physiology of your central nervous system and body to reinforce chronic pain. Worsening it in attempt to get your attention and force you to deal with your repressed emotions. These physiological changes cannot be treated with any supplement, drug, or surgery.


How to break the cycle

The only way to break the cycle is to treat both things simultaneously. Conventional medicine breaks up medicine into specialties which may seem like a good idea, but it can lead to incomplete care, which most people suffering from these ailments often experience. Your pain and your mood are not separate entities, they are very much so connected. By sending you to different doctors to treat each condition disrespects the interconnectedness of the human body and ignores the common denominators between each condition: subconscious emotions and chronic inflammation.


Mood disorders, like depression and anxiety are conventionally treated with drugs that aim to preserve neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. None of these neurotransmitters affect subconscious emotions or chronic inflammation. Yet, despite a meta analysis of all the research on SSRI antidepressants proving that they are ineffective in treating depression, they are still prescribed as a first line therapy.


Targeting chronic inflammation through an individualized approach that removes inflammatory foods, environmental toxins, heals leaky gut, and incorporates anti-inflammatory foods, supplements, and therapies is the only way to eliminate chronic inflammation. Conventional routes, like NSAIDs and corticosteroids only reduce acute inflammation, not chronic.


Any form of therapy will be beneficial to the chronic pain sufferer because it can help with depression and anxiety, but can fall short. Mind-body counseling is a special form of counseling that helps tie together the ailments of the mind and body. Mind-body therapists understand anatomy and physiology on top of mental health which allows them to help sufferers understand how the mind affects the physiology and biochemistry driving their chronic pain. In order to break these connections, to allow chronic pain, depression, and anxiety to subside, you first have to understand how they started. You cannot just will them away. Understanding your connections allows you to break them. Breaking them causes repressed emotions to lose their power and the body can begin to heal again.

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