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Pain, Mood and the Brain

Continuing my harangue on research telling us what we may already know, here’s one for you. ”Your pain impacts your mood.” Duh. Isn’t that a no-brainer? According to this study, pain is closely tied to depression and anxiety. You think? In a paper published in the January 2014 issue of the journal PAIN, scientists reported the results of an analysis of seven years of health data involving 614 healthy adult participant in a long-running study. The scientists compared pain assessments of participants with the onset of first-time depressive or anxiety disorders. The results suggest that pain, and particularly pain at multiple locations, is a significant risk indicator for developing depressive and anxiety disorders.

Wait, there’s more. “The link between chronic pain and psychological distress can be understood as a failure of brain networks, with systems unwinding and symptoms appearing” according to David Borsook, MD co-director of the Center for Pain and the Brain at Massachusetts General Hospital. He goes on to explain, “For example, a person in pain may suffer what is known as the reward deficiency syndrome, in which neurotransmitters associated with feeling good are diminished, and it becomes more difficult to enjoy the pleasures of life. This in turn can lead to the onset or progression of depression and/or anxiety.”

So next time I get to work late, I’ll be sure to tell them that my reward deficiency syndrome was active that morning and caused me to turn over and go back to sleep. Geez….