Being depressed can make real physical pain feel worse, British researchers have found.

Noting that pain and depression often occur at the same time, the current observation blends two competing schools of thought, in which some believe that pain is "all in the head" while others contend that pain is "all in the body."

The Study

To see how pain and depression might intersect, the research team-led by the University of Oxford's Chantal Berna, MD-used brain imaging to conduct pain tests on healthy participants who were induced to feel sad.

A depressed mood appeared to affect brain nerve circuitry responsible for emotion, resulting in a stronger perception of pain, according to the report published in Biological Psychiatry.

"When the healthy people were made sad by negative thoughts and depressing music, we found that their brains processed pain more emotionally, which lead to them finding the pain more unpleasant," Dr. Berna said.

Dr. Berna's team theorized that one's ability to control the negative emotions linked to pain are short-circuited by depression, leading to a bigger punch when pain hits. In other words, depression may not only be a consequence of being in pain. It might actually exacerbate pain, making it worse than it would be for those in a positive frame of mind.

"Our research suggests depressed mood leads to maladaptive changes in brain function associated with pain, and that depressed mood itself could be a target for treatment by medicines or psychotherapy in this context," Dr. Berna explained.

Treating Pain In Depressed People

Following this line of research, the next step would be to study patients with chronic pain, because they often also suffer from depression, the researchers noted. The goal would be to find ways to more effectively treat the millions of people worldwide who experience chronic pain and depression, the authors explained.

Eat to Beat Depression

Spanish researchers have found that depression was almost 30% less likely to occur in those who best adhered to a Mediterranean-style diet. The same inflammation that occurs in those with heart disease affects those with depression, the researchers believe.

Also postulated: Olive oil enhances the amount of serotonin, the neurotransmitter in the brain associated with feelings of well-being.

Diet details: (search for "Mediterranean diet").

Fish Oil Works as well as Drugs

Results of the largest-ever trial of omega-3 supplements for depression, the Omega3D Trial, found that fish oil supplements (1,050 milligrams, or mg, daily of eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA) improved depression symptoms as much as is reported by those taking prescription drugs-particularly those with major depression who did not also have an anxiety disorder. Speak to a physician about switching from a prescription medication to fish oil that has at least 1,050 mg of EPA, the component that helps depression. The amount of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) doesn't affect depression.

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