By Olivia Chandler

Depression is Not Just the Blues

A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Mary Larson explains.

depression and its relationship to pain“I was experiencing extreme pain in my lower back, right leg and lower abdomen. Since I had no insurance, I stoically dealt with this. I would say on a day-to-day basis, my pain was a 9 or 10. After three months of employment, I was able to see an orthopedic surgeon. When the MRI was done, I had a 90% compression on two sections of the lumbar region. Two weeks later, I was in surgery. Over the next six years, I had a subsequent back surgery and a cervical fusion on two sections of my neck.”

Her depression returned and now at 45 years old, Susan is taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to help her cope. “I face pain every day and have a numb right leg. The medication makes a huge difference in my ability to cope, but I have found that exercise, minimizing my “alone” time, and building a relationship which entails excellent communication with my health care professionals, is important as the medication itself.”

Depression can lead to Back Pain

It’s not a surprise that most people suffering from chronic pain also experience depression, but did you know the reverse can be true as well? A 2004 University of Alberta study revealed that depression is a risk factor for onset of severe neck and low back pain. Researchers followed a random sample of nearly 800 adults without neck and low back pain and found that people who suffer from depression are four times as likely to develop intense or disabling neck and low back pain as those who are not depressed.

When diagnosing a patient it is important to evaluate if the back pain caused the depression, or if back pain can result because of depression.

Sharing Your Symptoms with Your Health Care Provider

Since its common for these conditions to come and go, it’s important to try to deal with them before they become troublesome and lead to a vicious cycle.

Unfortunately, many don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of depression, nor are they aware of the various treatments for depression.

Watch for these symptoms of Depression:

  • Change of appetite, with either significant weight loss not attributable to dieting or weight gain.
  • Change in sleeping patterns, such as fitful sleep, inability to sleep, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much.
  • Loss of interest and pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed.
  • Fatigue, Loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness.
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness.
  • Feelings of inappropriate guilt.
  • Inability to concentrate or think, indecisiveness.
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide. (Note: People suffering this symptom should receive treatment immediately!)
  • Melancholia (defined as overwhelming feelings of sadness and grief), accompanied by waking at least two hours earlier than normal in the morning, feeling more depressed in the morning, and moving significantly more slowly.
  • Disturbed thinking, a symptom developed by some severely depressed persons. For example, severely depressed people sometimes have beliefs not based in reality about physical disease, sinfulness, or poverty.
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches. (Depression can also exacerbate existing physical symptoms such as backaches, headaches and aching joints.)

Remember to always keep track of your symptoms and share them with your HCP prior to our office visit so that he/she can review them before your appointment.