Exploring the Emotional Symptoms of Chronic Pain

a girl having a migraine auras

Chronic pain is often defined as pain that lasts at least three months. It also includes symptoms that come and go over the course of at least six months. Conditions that cause back pain are common causes of chronic pain, but fibromyalgia, frequent migraines, TMJ disorders, and arthritis can also cause it. Chronic pain takes a heavy toll on both body and mind. Consider adding a mental health counselor to your chronic pain care team—after all, your emotional wellness is just as important as your physical health. 

Depressive Disorders 

Chronic pain and depression go hand-in-hand. Research shows that people with chronic pain are more susceptible to depressive disorders. Similarly, people with depression are more likely to have a lower pain threshold. It’s a vicious cycle that feeds itself, and it’s difficult to break. A doctor may diagnose a patient with depression if he or she has been experiencing associated symptoms for at least two weeks to the extent that they interfere with daily activities. Some of these symptoms include: 

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Anger
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Social isolation
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Poor productivity at work or school
  • Increased absenteeism from work or school
  • Lack of energy

Negative Thought Patterns 


Negative thought patterns are closely associated with depression, but they aren’t necessarily the same thing. A person with negative thought patterns could be labeled a pessimist. He or she always looks at the worst side of every situation, and imagines that future scenarios will be unreasonably worse than they are likely to be. This is called catastrophizing. Negative self-labeling is also common, in which people believe they are failures and nothing they do is correct. For some patients, chronic pain is the trigger for negative thought patterns. 


Chronic pain doesn’t just affect the individual patient. It can affect the entire family, particularly when the patient has depression or negative thinking. No matter how supportive a loved one is, it can be difficult to pick up the slack with household responsibilities and financial obligations. Caregiving can also add to the strain. Additionally, the social isolation associated with depression can cause relationships to deteriorate over time. 

You shouldn’t have to live with chronic pain. Contact The Houston Spine & Rehabilitation Centers at 281-362-0006 to discuss your symptoms with our team of specialists. We offer a full range of orthopedic and sports medicine services in The Woodlands, including physical therapy, bracing, and spine surgery. 

Dr. Mark Yezak
Mark Yezak, BS, DC, is the founder, chiropractic director, and chief of staff at Houston Spine & Rehabilitation Centers. Offering 25 years of experience. Dr. Yezak is a published author of research papers, books, and journal entries. He is undoubtedly a leader in his field.
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