Home / Reducing fear, anger, and depression


  • Many people with chronic pain experience feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, fear, and loss.
  • To screen yourself for depression and anxiety, click here.
  • It can be helpful to think about what triggers these emotions, aside from your chronic pain.
  • Emotions can affect your pain, and pain can affect your emotions.
  • Depression and other negative emotions can interfere with the effectiveness of your pain management.
  • Talking about these feelings can help. Try a mentor, a counselor, or a support group.
  • Your doctor may be able to help you manage these feelings and select a pain treatment that doesn’t make them worse.
  • If you want to do everything you can to improve your pain, it is critical to be honest and open with your doctor. If you want good physical health, you have to also focus on your mental health.

  • Many patients are afraid their doctor will not believe that they have real pain if they admit they are experiencing depression or emotional issues. It is important when asked about mood and emotions to be honest and open because emotions can affect your pain, and pain can affect your emotions.
  • Pain causes negative emotions, and negative emotions worsen pain. If you want to do everything possible to improve your pain, it is very important to be honest and open with your doctor. If you want good physical health, you have to focus on your mental health, too.

Feeling depressed

Many people feel depressed. Anyone can be depressed, no matter their circumstances or age.
Pain can lead to depression, and depression can worsen and intensify chronic pain.

  • There are effective treatments for depression and recovery is possible.
  • Substance use increases the risk for depression.
  • Having strong connections to friends and families can help you avoid depression.
  • Depression can affect how you feel, how you think, and daily activities such as sleeping, eating, or working.
  • Everyone has times when they feel depressed or out of sorts. When clinical depression is present, these feelings have lasted for at least two weeks.
  • It’s important to talk to your doctor about your feelings of depression.
  • Most drugs that are used to treat depression also help to treat pain.
  • Signs that things are worsening include having more suicidal thoughts and difficulty sleeping.
  • If you are feeling like your depression is getting worse, please ask your friends and family for help and talk to your health care provider. If you were seen in an emergency room recently for depression, you can return there for more help.
  • There is a crisis center hotline where you can get help at anytime: 1-800-273-talk or suicidepreventionlifeline.org.


Managing Stress 

  • Identify sources of manageable stress and learn ways to deal with them.
  • While some sources of stress—like having chronic pain or grieving a loss—cannot be avoided, other stresses—like watching an upsetting movie or looking at FacebookTM—can be avoided.
  • Even if you can’t avoid some stresses, you can control how you respond to those stresses.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you adjust how you respond to stresses in your life.
  • You may benefit from psychotherapy to help you identify ways to reduce your stress.
  • Doing things that help you relax or bring you joy is another way to reduce stress in your life. Such activities may include walking, reading a book, yoga, having a pet, having a hobby, gardening, music, journaling, joining a social group, or setting aside a special time with a friend or family member.
  • Including regular exercise in your daily routine may reduce stress and help you sleep better, especially if you exercise several hours before going to bed.
  • Even if you have difficulty standing or walking, you can still exercise by following routines designed to be done while sitting in a chair (including pool therapy or chair-based yoga).
  • A physical or occupational therapist can help design an exercise plan that works for you. It’s also a good idea to talk with your doctor about your exercise program to make sure it is safe for you.

Fear of pain can be a barrier to a better life.

  • Pace yourself. Know your body; read the signs and signals it’s giving you.
  • Talk with your doctor about a plan for breakthrough pain to help you be prepared and give you more confidence.
  • Carry a short-acting painkiller with you for emergency use. Sometimes just knowing that you have something in your back pocket that can help ease the pain gives you the peace of mind to be more active.
  • Some activities may temporarily increase your pain, such as exercise or physical therapy, but may be beneficial for you.
    • Not all pain is bad. Just because something hurts doesn’t mean it is doing you harm.
  • Managing your chronic pain is essential. This does not mean getting rid of your pain. Taking too much opioid medication can interfere with independent living.
    • Opioids can make simple activities both difficult and dangerous (including walking and driving).

Some medications mask pain making it easier for you to overdo it.