We have been talking about the mind-body connection for years. Having such an awareness is a good thing, but using it to explain away someone’s pain isn’t.
There are many sophiscated models out there that attempt to explain the connection between depression and pain, for example. Research does suggest that certain cultural groups and older adults tend to have depressive episodes that are characterized by somatic symptoms. Indeed, we often remind healthcare providers to consider the presence of depression when an older person is complaining about pain. While the two do often go hand in hand, it is both maddening and frightening to naturally assume that someone is “complaining” of pain because she is depressed.
Treating the underlying depression is great, but denying the pain experience isn’t. I have worked with many individuals whose depression actually improved significantly, but they continued to experience pain. Instead of acknowledging that, I notice that many medical providers have a tendency to write in their note that the cause of pain is unclear but “probably due to depression.” Sometimes, they may even say with much certainty that the person must still be very depressed if they are still reporting pain.
This infuriates me. It’s as if saying these people are not supposed to tell anyone that they are in pain. If they do, they will be labeled as “depressed.”
There are many different ways to apply the mind-body concept and facilitate treatment. Blaming everything on “depression” or the presence of a mental illness isn’t.