Can your significant other increase your risk for chronic pain?
While a significant other’s depression can be emotionally draining and upsetting, it can also take a physical toll on your health, too.
Additionally, the study found that chronic pain and depression share common causes, including both genetic and environmental.
Further research found that heritability accounted for 38.4 percent of the risk for chronic pain, and that shared environment with spouses totaled 18.7 percent of susceptibility to chronic pain.
Dr. John Hong, interventional pain specialist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says that when both chronic pain and depression are combined – whether within a person or in a relationship – it can lead to increased issues and stress.
“Someone with depression can have physical manifestations including poor appetite, fatigue and even their own widespread pain. And someone who is in chronic pain can also be depressed due to the stress of being in pain and resultant disability,” says Dr. Hong. “Unfortunately, these conditions often coexist, and especially when the two conditions are present in a relationship, they feed off each other. This can lead to a worsening downward spiral of pain and depression for both parties involved.”
According to The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, roughly 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, which can be defined as pain persisting longer than the normal, expected time for healing. This is generally thought to be more than 12 weeks.
The longer chronic pain persists, the more negative effects it can have emotionally, biologically and socially, and it can be harder to treat as time passes, says Dr. Hong.
That effect is taken into account as the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 16.1 million adults in the U.S. have experienced a depressive episode this past year.
Both medical conditions can be emotionally and physically taxing for a significant other. Dr. Hong advises couples seek professional help as they each try to find ways to better support and understand one another’s conditions.
“It is important to not suffer in silence and to relieve such stressors in a healthy way,” says Dr. Hong.
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