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The Emotional Price Of Back Pain?

by Margaret McCraw, PhD
Click here to lose the back pain

Let's begin with a few simple questions:

  • Have you been in a funk, not understanding the reason for your bad moods and lack of energy?

  • Are you isolating yourself from others because you never know how you will feel from moment to moment?

  • Have you noticed that friends and family members have backed away from spending time with you?

  • Is living from day-to-day becoming more and more of a burden, with no light in sight?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing a medical illness known as depression.

Chronic pain and depression are two of the most common health problems that health professionals encounter, yet only a small percentage of studies have investigated the relationship between these conditions (Currie and Wang, 2004).

There are key differences between chronic pain and acute pain. The nervous system processes chronic pain differently than it does acute or “immediate” pain.

  • Acute pain results from an incident. For example, you fall down the steps and sprain your ankle.

  • Chronic or “long term” pain happens over time and wears on the individual physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Often no end is in sight. This may cause the individual to feel more and more pessimistic or cynical. 

The first step in changing negative thought patterns and the associated emotions is to understand what you are going through when experiencing a depression. The good news is you have the ability to make changes that will affect the way you feel and experience life on a day-to-day basis.

Are you ready to release the depression and re-experience having fun, laughter, and pleasure with your family and friends? Of course you are. So read on, to begin shifting your life in an upward and more positive direction. 


More about depression, below....



A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the whole person; mind, body, spirit, and emotions. It affects the way a person perceives himself as well as his perceptions of the world, resulting in pessimism, hopelessness, sadness and often times anxiety.  

Common Myths about depression: 

Depression …

  • is a personal weakness.
  • reflects laziness or unwillingness to actively participate in life.
  • is a diagnosis that is untreatable and incurable.

These myths are unfounded, and represent the opposite of the truth about depression.




  • often causes insomnia, leading to fatigue and agitation.
  • often leads to social isolation.
  • can lead to job dysfunction, causing financial difficulties.
  • coupled with chronic back pain may cause gastrointestinal distress.
  • can create memory and concentration difficulties.
  • can cause a lack of interest in sexual activity.


It is important to understand that depression and sadness are different. The death of a loved one, loss of a relationship, or termination of a job (including retirement) will cause us to feel sad. Grief is a normal response to these situations.

Individuals experiencing challenging times will often remark they feel depressed. However, sadness, grief, and depression are not the same. Feelings of sadness and grief will lessen with time, while depression can continue for months and years if untreated. 

Does this seem like you? 

Read the following list and note each symptom you are experiencing: 

  • I am really sad most of the time.
  • I don’t enjoy doing the things I’ve always enjoyed doing.
  • I have difficulty sleeping at night.
  • I often feel fatigued.
  • Getting up in the morning is challenging.
  • I feel better as the day goes on compared to when I first awoke.
  • My eating habits have changed: Generally, I eat more than usual or I eat less than usual.
  • I have very little, if any, sexual energy.
  • I am very forgetful throughout the day.
  • I find it hard to focus on the simple things of life. Even counting change has become challenging.
  • I often feel angry.
  • I feel anxious, and fearful with no apparent reason.
  • I prefer to stay alone rather than socialize.
  • I feel pessimistic about life in general, and am not sure I want to continue living.
  • I feel disappointed in myself.
  • I feel bad (physically and emotionally) most of the time.
  • I have thoughts about my death,
  • I  think about how I might kill myself,

If you agree with any of these, seek professional help. There may be nothing wrong, but if you're depressed you won't be able to determine that.

Note: Source for list – National Institute of Mental Health/NIMH (some revisions).


  • Medicine: Antidepressants may take several weeks before you begin to feel better.

  • Talk therapy: Talk therapy helps you to change the way you think, feel and behave to support you in feeling better.


A four step plan to enjoy life and find fulfillment is outlined in my book, Tune Into Love. These four steps include: 

  1. Create “feel good” moments.
  2. Identify your desires (desires such as “I want to feel better”).
  3. Activate your intentions (intentions are strong desires coupled with strong belief that you can have what you want).
  4. Release the outcome.


  • Set reasonable goals for yourself
  • Set priorities; do what you can
  • Break large tasks into small ones
  • Take everything at your own pace
  • Stay connected with others
  • Take walks and exercise if acceptable to your physician.
  • Shift pessimistic thinking to hopeful thoughts.



National Mental Health Association http://www.nmha.org703/684-7722Information & Resources

National Institute of Mental Health



Information & Resources

National Alliance for the Mentally



Information & Resources


© 2006 by Margaret McCraw, Ph.D., author of Tune Into Love


For more information on controlling chronic back pain and how to treat it effectively, read the latest Back Pain Advisory from The Healthy Back Institute. Click here to get a free copy of it, plus free access to the back pain forum and a free audio recording “ 7 Mistakes Most Back Pain Suffers Make.”



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