When depression hurts

During their lifetime, about one in 10 people in Canada will experience an episode of major depressive disorder – the diagnosis given to those suffering from depression.

While the emotional symptoms of depression such as hopelessness and prolonged sadness are readily identified by the majority of Canadians, only 52 per cent of Canadians can identify its painful physical symptoms.

Depression may cause painful physical symptoms such as back pain or headaches that have no apparent physical cause. Depression may also increase one’s response to pain, or at least increase the suffering associated with pain.

This is because depression and pain have been shown to share common pathways and chemicals known as neurotransmitters within the central nervous system that are involved in controlling both mood and pain.

Someone with depression might think or say any of the following:

• “I don’t enjoy being with my friends or doing any of the things I usually love to do.”

• “I feel sad all the time and just don’t feel like myself.”

• “My body aches all over, for no real reason.”

•  “I have been getting headaches lately.”

• “My joints and back hurt.”

• “I feel like I don’t have any energy.”

Treatments may include psychotherapy, peer support groups, psychoeducation and medication. Most people treated for depression make a full recovery.

If a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of depression, suggest they talk to a doctor.

For more information on depression and tools to facilitate the patient/doctor discussion, please visit www.depressionhurts.ca.

By Dr. Tom Janzen

*Dr. Tom Janzen is a family physician who specializes in mental health.