Is there a link between pain and depression? Can depression cause physical pain?

Answer From Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.

Pain and depression are closely related. Depression can cause pain — and pain can cause depression. Sometimes pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens symptoms of depression, and then the resulting depression worsens feelings of pain.

In many people, depression causes unexplained physical symptoms such as back pain or headaches. This kind of pain may be the first or the only sign of depression.

Pain and the problems it causes can wear you down over time and affect your mood. Chronic pain causes a number of problems that can lead to depression, such as trouble sleeping and stress.

Disabling pain can cause low self-esteem due to work or financial issues or the inability to participate in social activities and hobbies.

Depression doesn't just occur with pain resulting from an injury. It's also common in people who have pain linked to a health condition such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease.

To get symptoms of pain and depression under control, you may need separate treatment for each condition. However, some treatments may help with both:

  • Antidepressant medications may relieve both pain and depression because of shared chemical messengers in the brain.
  • Talk therapy, also called psychological counseling (psychotherapy), can be effective in treating both conditions.
  • Stress-reduction techniques, physical activity, exercise, meditation, journaling, learning coping skills and other strategies also may help.
  • Pain rehabilitation programs, such as the comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center at Mayo Clinic, typically provide a team approach to treatment, including medical and psychiatric aspects.

Treatment for co-occurring pain and depression may be most effective when it involves a combination of treatments.

If you have pain and depression, get help before your symptoms worsen. You don't have to be miserable. Getting the right treatment can help you start enjoying life again.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

April 03, 2019 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. Addison's disease
  2. Adjustment disorders
  3. Adrenal fatigue: What causes it?
  4. After a flood, are food and medicines safe to use?
  5. Alzheimer's: New treatments
  6. Alzheimer's 101
  7. Understanding the difference between dementia types
  8. Alzheimer's disease
  9. Alzheimer's disease: Can exercise prevent memory loss?
  10. Alzheimer's drugs
  11. Alzheimer's genes
  12. Alzheimer's nose spray: New Alzheimer's treatment?
  13. Alzheimer's prevention: Does it exist?
  14. Alzheimer's stages
  15. Ambien: Is dependence a concern?
  16. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  17. Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?
  18. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  19. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  20. Antidepressants: Side effects
  21. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  22. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  23. Antidepressants and pregnancy
  24. Atypical antidepressants
  25. Atypical depression
  26. Back pain
  27. Bedtime routines: Not just for babies
  28. Binge-eating disorder
  29. Blood Basics
  30. Borderline personality disorder
  31. Breast-feeding and medications
  32. Dr. Wallace Video
  33. Parathyroid
  34. Can music help someone with Alzheimer's?
  35. Can zinc supplements help treat hidradenitis suppurativa?
  36. Can't sleep? Try daytime exercise
  37. Hidradenitis suppurativa wound care
  38. Celiac disease
  39. Celiac disease diet: How do I get enough grains?
  40. Chase away the winter blues
  41. Child abuse
  42. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  43. CJD - Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  44. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  45. Clinical trials for hidradenitis suppurativa
  46. Coconut oil: Can it cure hypothyroidism?
  47. Coffee after dinner? Make it decaf
  48. Complete blood count (CBC)
  49. Complicated grief
  50. Compulsive sexual behavior
  51. Concussion
  52. Concussion in children
  53. Concussion Recovery
  54. Concussion Telemedicine
  55. Coping with the stress of hidradenitis suppurativa
  56. Coping with the emotional ups and downs of psoriatic arthritis
  57. COVID-19 and your mental health
  58. Creating a hidradenitis suppurativa care team
  59. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  60. Cushing syndrome
  61. Cyclothymia (cyclothymic disorder)
  62. Delirium
  63. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  64. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  65. Depression: Diagnosis is key
  66. Depression during pregnancy
  67. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  68. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  69. Depression: Provide support, encouragement
  70. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  71. Diabetes and depression: Coping with the two conditions
  72. Diagnosing Alzheimer's
  73. Dissociative disorders
  74. Vitamin C and mood
  75. Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  76. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  77. Fatigue
  78. Fibromyalgia
  79. Fibromyalgia and acupuncture
  80. Fibromyalgia: Linked to other health problems?
  81. Fibromyalgia and Neurontin
  82. Fibromyalgia or not?
  83. HABIT program orientation
  84. Hangovers
  85. Hashimoto's disease
  86. Headache
  87. Hidradenitis suppurativa
  88. Hidradenitis suppurativa and biologics: Get the facts
  89. Hidradenitis suppurativa and diet: What's recommended?
  90. Hidradenitis suppurativa and sleep: How to get more zzz's
  91. Hidradenitis suppurativa: Tips for weight-loss success
  92. Hidradenitis suppurativa: What is it?
  93. Hidradenitis suppurativa: When does it appear?
  94. Hidradenitis suppurativa: Where can I find support?
  95. How opioid addiction occurs
  96. How to tell if a loved one is abusing opioids
  97. Hyperparathyroidism
  98. Hypoparathyroidism
  99. Hypothyroidism: Can calcium supplements interfere with treatment?
  100. Hypothyroidism diet
  101. Hypothyroidism and joint pain?
  102. Hypothyroidism: Should I take iodine supplements?
  103. Hypothyroidism symptoms: Can hypothyroidism cause eye problems?
  104. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  105. Insomnia
  106. Insomnia: How do I stay asleep?
  107. Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of sleeping pills
  108. Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
  109. Is depression a factor in rheumatoid arthritis?
  110. Is fibromyalgia hereditary?
  111. Is the definition of Alzheimer's disease changing?
  112. Kratom for opioid withdrawal
  113. Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
  114. Living better with hidradenitis suppurativa
  115. Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  116. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  117. Managing Headaches
  118. Managing hidradenitis suppurativa: Early treatment is crucial
  119. Hidradenitis suppurativa-related health risks
  120. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  121. Marijuana and depression
  122. Mayo Clinic Minute: 3 tips to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease
  123. Mayo Clinic Minute: Alzheimer's disease risk and lifestyle
  124. Mayo Clinic Minute New definition of Alzheimer's changes
  125. Mayo Clinic Minute: Prevent migraines with magnetic stimulation
  126. Mayo Clinic Minute: Restless legs syndrome in kids
  127. Mayo Clinic Minute Weathering migraines
  128. Mayo Clinic Minute: Women and Alzheimer's Disease
  129. Medication overuse headaches
  130. Meditation
  131. Mediterranean diet recipes
  132. Memory loss: When to seek help
  133. Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness
  134. Mental health providers: Tips on finding one
  135. Mental health
  136. Mental illness
  137. Migraine
  138. What is a migraine? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  139. Migraine medications and antidepressants
  140. Migraine FAQs
  141. Migraine treatment: Can antidepressants help?
  142. Infographic: Migraine Treatments: Botox & Nerve Blocking
  143. Migraines and gastrointestinal problems: Is there a link?
  144. Migraines and Vertigo
  145. Migraines: Are they triggered by weather changes?
  146. Alleviating migraine pain
  147. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
  148. Mindfulness exercises
  149. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  150. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  151. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  152. New Alzheimers Research
  153. Nicotine dependence
  154. Not tired? Don't go to bed
  155. Occipital nerve stimulation: Effective migraine treatment?
  156. Ocular migraine: When to seek help
  157. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  158. Pancreatic cancer
  159. Pancreatic Cancer
  160. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  161. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
  162. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  163. Perimenopause
  164. Pet therapy
  165. Pituitary tumors
  166. Polymyalgia rheumatica
  167. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  168. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  169. Prescription drug abuse
  170. Prescription sleeping pills: What's right for you?
  171. Progressive supranuclear palsy
  172. Psychotherapy
  173. Reducing the discomfort of hidradenitis suppurativa: Self-care tips
  174. Restless legs syndrome
  175. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  176. Savella may help fatigue
  177. Schizoaffective disorder
  178. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  179. Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light box
  180. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  181. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  182. Skip booze for better sleep
  183. Sleep disorders
  184. Sleep tips
  185. Soy: Does it worsen hypothyroidism?
  186. Staying active with hidradenitis suppurativa
  187. Stop your next migraine before it starts
  188. Stress symptoms
  189. Sundowning: Late-day confusion
  190. Support groups
  191. Surgery for hidradenitis suppurativa
  192. Symptom Checker
  193. Tapering off opioids: When and how
  194. Tinnitus and antidepressants
  195. Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  196. Traumatic brain injury
  197. Treating hidradenitis suppurativa: Explore your options
  198. Treating hidradenitis suppurativa with antibiotics and hormones
  199. Treatment-resistant depression
  200. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  201. Unexplained weight loss
  202. Vagus nerve stimulation
  203. Valerian: A safe and effective herbal sleep aid?
  204. Vascular dementia
  205. Video: Alzheimer's drug shows early promise
  206. Video: Vagus nerve stimulation
  207. Vitamin B-12 and depression
  208. What are opioids and why are they dangerous?
  209. What are the signs and symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa?
  210. What is reflexology?
  211. Wilson's disease
  212. Wilson's syndrome: An accepted medical diagnosis?
  213. Young-onset Alzheimer's