Anxiety and Depression caused by long-term and chronic pain

Long-term pain can lead to secondary mental health issues. Learn more about anxiety treatment options.

Anxiety Depression

Chronic pain, if left untreated can cause a range of secondary health issues, including both anxiety and depression. In Australia, around one million people experience depression at some point in their life. Furthermore, one in six women, and one in eight men, will experience depression at some stage of their life. When it comes to anxiety, approximately 25% of the Australian population have an anxiety disorder that requires treatment at some stage of their life.

What are the symptoms of anxiety and depression from long-term pain?

The symptoms of anxiety and depression can vary from person to person and can range all the way from mild to severe. If your anxiety and depression are caused by chronic pain, then symptoms severity can also vary depending on both the length of time that you’ve experienced this pain and just how painful it is.

Some of the symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Shortness of breath
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Feelings of dread
  • Concentration problems

Like anxiety, depression can manifest in both physical and emotional symptoms. Some of the symptoms of depression can include:

  • Loss of energy, lethargy, and or exhaustion
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Substance abuse
  • Feeling sad or losing interest or pleasure in activities
  • Becoming withdrawn and isolated
  • Thinking about death or suicide

What are the traditional anxiety disorder treatments when caused by chronic pain?

It’s important to talk to your GP about anxiety disorder treatments and put a plan in place for your chronic pain, as well as any anxiety and depression that may be caused by it. There is a range of traditional anxiety treatment options for patients who suffer from chronic pain, which include:

Lifestyle changes:

  • Seeing a psychologist
  • Seeing a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist
  • Relaxation techniques, such as meditation
  • Exercises such as swimming, walking, tai chi, and cycling
  • Improving your sleep

Medicinal treatments:

  • Over-the-counter pain relief medication such as paracetamol
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which include ibuprofen and diclofenac
  • Antidepressants

Additionally, your doctor may recommend treatments and various anxiety relief management strategies. These treatments can vary based on the nature of your condition, and may include:

  • Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise
  • Counselling or psychological therapy
  • Psychological treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (ITP), and behaviour therapy.
  • Antidepressant medication

And for anxiety relief, additional treatments may include:

  • Relaxation and correct breathing techniques
  • Support groups
  • Dietary adjustments
  • Mindfulness

Medicinal cannabis and anxiety and depression caused by long-term pain

If you’ve exhausted other anxiety disorder treatments and haven’t experienced any relief or improvement, it might be worth chatting to your doctor to see whether medicinal cannabis could be suitable for you. 

Dr Stewart is a true believer in focusing on overall health and always promotes a healthy lifestyle as the key. Click below to learn more about anxiety and depression caused by long-term pain and traditional and alternative treatments you may wish to discuss with a Doctor regarding anxiety treatment Australia wide. 

Anxiety FAQs

What are the most common causes of anxiety?

When an individual suffers from anxiety, there can be numerous physical, emotional or psychological causes. Just as the causes can vary, so can the effect they have on the person — luckily there are plenty of different forms of anxiety relief.
Generally, anxiety and other mental health problems often develop due to a combination of contributing factors. The causes can affect people to the degree where normal life can be difficult to live and the disorder is difficult to understand. Most people will experience anxiety at one point in their life, but it is more common for women to develop an anxiety disorder than men, it is unclear why this is the case. For diagnosed disorders, there are many different anxiety treatment options.
Some of the most common causes of anxiety include:
● Pre-existing mental health issues
● Family history — when there are mental health conditions in your family, you’re more likely to develop anxiety or depression
● Pregnancy, miscarriage and childbirth
● Life-threatening events and traumatic experiences
● Ongoing stress — job loss, unstable accommodation, relationship breakdown, family issues, grief etc.
● Abuse such as sexual, physical, verbal, domestic etc.
● Physical health problems like asthma, hormonal issues, thyroid, diabetes, injury, heart disease, cancer etc.
● Substance abuse
● Caffeine consumption
● Certain personality types

How can I calm my anxiety?

Calming anxiety is a way to help alleviate symptoms or prevent a full panic attack from happening. While there are plenty of panic attack treatments and depression medications out there, it is sometimes a great idea to learn some other helpful anxiety relief techniques to calm an anxious mind.
Some helpful ways of calming or trying to prevent moments of anxiety include:
● Avoiding caffeine — this substance is a well-known anxiety inducer.
● Limiting alcohol — a calming effect may be associated with alcohol as a depressant but after consuming this substance it changes the levels of serotonin making anxiety symptoms worse.
● Essential oils — lavender especially, is known for its calming effect on the mind.
● Exercise — a build-up of adrenaline can worsen anxiety, so endorphin-inducing movement can help bring calmness to the mind.
● Hydrate — being thirsty can exacerbate anxiety and can lead to feelings of anxiety that cause panic attacks.
● Positive affirmations — during moments of panic or stress it can help to repeat something like ‘this feeling is temporary’ to yourself.
● Meditation — start with taking some deep breaths to slow your heart rate down. There are also some great anxiety meditation recordings that people can listen to in more difficult moments.

What are the best anxiety treatment options?

The best anxiety treatment options or medication is an individual choice that should work on with your doctor. Depending on what type of anxiety disorder you have been diagnosed with and how severe the case is, you may be recommended something different.
Sometimes, a change in lifestyle including regular exercise and mindfulness may be the most beneficial option for you. In other more extreme cases, panic attack treatments may look more like depression medication or anxiety management programs involving therapy with a psychologist.
The right anxiety relief for each case will require some intervention from medical professionals such as a mental health nurse, a GP, a psychiatrist, a psychologist or a counsellor. Recovery from periods of anxiety and depression or disorders is possible when the right care is in place. 
Common anxiety disorder treatments and ways to manage symptoms include:
● Medicine like antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications
● Online support tools
● Psychological therapy
● Mindfulness
● Anxiety meditation
● Other natural remedies for anxiety relief

Why do I have anxiety for no reason?

People can have anxiety for a number of reasons, or sometimes no reason at all. Generalised Anxiety Disorder can happen for no obvious reason, so it is important to discuss anxiety with a medical professional.
It may feel for an individual more like they are having trouble connecting the physiological feelings with emotion or event. Anxiety is an emotion that is associated with feelings of tension, fear, stress and worries, and these can be enough to cause a panic attack.
Anxiety treatment in Australia may include depression medication and natural remedies which can help when it comes to managing anxiety and its complications, but prevention is key.

What does anxiety feel like?

As there are many different types of anxiety disorders, the feeling an individual gets will vary from case to case. In general, feelings of fear, worry, nervousness, panic or like something bad is going to happen can be present. Anxiety can also affect someone’s ability to sleep, concentrate, manage stress, or even perform simple everyday tasks. Physical symptoms can include shortness of breath, a racing heart and trembling hands.
If an individual is suffering from more than one of these symptoms, anxiety relief in the form of traditional medical treatments and natural anxiety remedies might be used to alleviate the ongoing issues, and it is important to discuss these treatments with your doctor or medical professional.
The most common types of anxiety disorders and how they manifest include:
● Social anxiety — this causes people to avoid performance or social settings for fear of becoming embarrassed, rejected or awkward.
● Generalised anxiety disorder — individuals will experience uncontrollable worry about many different issues in their everyday lives.
● Panic disorder — this results in regular panic attacks, irrational fears, dizziness and shortness of breath.
● Obsessive-compulsive disorder — impulsive and obsessive or unwanted thoughts causing repetitive and routine behaviours.
● Post-traumatic stress disorder — after a significant event or experience witnessing a traumatic life event, feelings of fear and avoidance do not fade. Sometimes nightmares and flashbacks are present.

Lisa J.

“It is really hard to keep yourself motivated when you feel pain everyday for so many years. The constant discomfort makes you anxious about little things throughout the day.”

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