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Depression can cause physical pain

“I’m not just depressed,” Barbara told her doctor. “I’m also having headaches, muscle pain and stomach aches. I hurt all over.”

Depression and pain often occur together. And it’s not just “all in your head,” according to a recent study led by University of Oxford researchers. It’s also a result of what’s going on in the pathways of your brain.

The study, which used brain imaging to see how healthy volunteers responded to pain while feeling low, found that inducing depressed mood disrupted a portion of the participants’ neurocircuitry that regulates emotion, which caused them to find pain more unpleasant.

Authors Dr. Chantal Berna and colleagues speculate that being in a sad state of mind disables one’s ability to regulate the negative emotion associated with feeling pain. Rather than merely being a consequence of having pain, depressed mood may drive pain and cause it to feel worse.

Many people who are suffering from depression and experiencing physical pain, don’t know the two may be connected, so they don’t discuss their physical symptoms with their doctor.

In some cases, treating your depression — with therapy or medicine or both — will resolve your physical symptoms. Certain antidepressants, such as Cymbalta® and Effexor®, have been found to be more effective for treating the combination of depression symptoms and pain than SSRIs.

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