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Work Injury Depression & Chronic Pain

Workplace injuries bring with them a wide variety of challenges and hurdles to overcome. When that also involves chronic pain, the long-term consequences can be even more daunting than the initial injuries themselves.

When a workplace injury results in chronic pain, a number of factors combine to create an increased likelihood of depression. "People with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing psychiatric symptoms—usually mood or anxiety disorders—and depressed patients have three times the average risk of developing chronic pain," according to the Harvard Mental Health newsletter.

Chronic Pain Is More than Physical

According to the Harvard newsletter, "pain, especially chronic pain, is an emotional condition as well as a physical sensation. It is a complex experience that affects thought, mood, and behavior and can lead to isolation, immobility, and drug dependence." "Depression is the most common emotion associated with chronic pain," according to the American Chiropractic Association. Its website states "[Depression] is thought to be 3 to 4 times more common in people with chronic pain than in the general population. . . . The combination of chronic pain and depression is often associated with greater disability than either depression or chronic pain alone."

The National Pain Foundation, citing a 2002 research paper on the subject, quotes similar statistics: "About 30% of patients with persistent pain conditions suffer from clinical depression related to their pain, and almost all persons will experience some mood changes. Seventy-five percent of patients with clinical depression present to their doctors because of physical symptoms, including pain."

Top 10 Reasons Depression Affect Injured Workers

According to a 2011 article on "JDSupra Law News," the ten most common reasons that workers become depressed are:

  • Pain: Pain makes people unhappy.
  • A supervisor, co-worker, or claims adjuster acts as if they are faking their injury
  • They are worried about whether they will still have a job when they have healed.
  • They are getting the run-around from the worker's compensation insurance company.
  • They feel they aren't getting good medical care, but don't know what to do.
  • Authorizations for medical care take forever.
  • They are worried about how they will make a living if they can't go back to their line of work.
  • They are financially behind on bills as a result of late compensation checks, no compensation checks, or inadequate compensation checks.
  • They have been accused by the medical profession of being drug seekers because of ignored complaints about pain.
  • They are worried about needing medical care in the future if the injury ever worsens after the claim is closed.
  • They are stuck at home or prohibited from participating in favorite physical activities.

Depression: Signs & Symptoms

If you or a loved one suffers from chronic pain, be on the watch for signs of depression. Some of the signs and symptoms related to depression reported by patients treated at pain clinics include:

  • Altered Mood, including irritability, agitation, anxiety & loss of concentration
  • Sleep Disturbance or Insomnia
  • Decreased Self-Esteem
  • Feelings of Hopelessness
  • Fear of Injury
  • Physical Deconditioning
  • Decreased Interest in Daily Activities, Favorite Hobbies or Pastimes
  • Less Interest in Sex
  • Family Stress
  • Work & Legal Issues
  • Financial Worries

If you are diagnosed with depression caused by pain from a work-related injury, call Styka & Styka at (312)357-8000.

(Source: D C Turk, "Beyond the symptoms: The painful manifestations of depression." Presented at Pain and Depression: Navigating the Intersection of Body and Mind Symposium, San Diego, 20 August 2002." and www.mayoclinic.com)

Depression Is Treatable

Whatever the numbers, the reality is that depression brought on by chronic pain following a workplace accident can be even more debilitating than the injuries themselves. In addition, chronic pain sufferers are likely to be depressed about any accompanying job or financial loss, a change in their work role as a result of the accident or injuries, or the trauma of the event itself. A Stanford University study published in the January 2003 issue of the Journal Archive of General Psychiatry found "that people who have major depression are more than twice as likely to have chronic pain when compared to people who have no symptoms of depression." This is all the more reason to pay careful attention to friends or family members who suffer from work-related injuries. If you notice any of the signs of depression, contact a health care provider. Depression can be treated with medications, many in affordable generic prescriptions.

Working with Styka & Styka, LLC

At Styka & Styka, LLC, we work hard to effectively settle work injury claims with maximum financial compensa- tion. To help us successfully handle your case, please do not discuss the circumstances of your case with any- one except the people in our office and your doctors. If you, a relative, or a friend suffer a work-related injury, call Styka & Styka at (312)357-8000.

Depression is serious. If you are feeling completely overwhelmed or suicidal, please tell your doctor immediately, or call 911 and ask for the suicide prevention hotline. While it can be difficult to obtain psychological treatment for depression on a worker's compensation claim, it can be done under the right circumstances. More importantly, many feelings of helplessness go away once you are armed with knowledge about how the claims process actually works. Call Styka & Styka, LLC, at (312) 577-8000 for a free, no-risk initial consultation that will help have a better understanding of Illinois' workers' compensation law and your injury.

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