Why does Pain affect your mood and sometimes lead to depression?

Written by Anne Gilbert, Youth and Family Services Manager, JIA-at-NRAS

I know that when I have been in pain for more than a day or two, I start to feel very low. My mood changes and I’m certainly not the “glass half full” person I usually am.

When you have a long-term condition like JIA, and the disease is active, the pain and low mood or depression can feel like a vicious circle as in some people low mood/anxiety and depression appears to make pain worse or more difficult to bear.

The pain causes the low mood and the low mood causes more pain. In addition, long-term pain can cause sleeplessness and stress and we know that this can be linked to depression and low self-esteem, especially for those young people unable to participate in social activities and meet up with their peers regularly. Children and young people do suffer with low mood, depression and stress. There are really no age barriers to poor mental health and of course, it’s
difficult as a parent/carer to comprehend that our child might be depressed, stressed or anxious especially when they actively hide their feelings. Taking care of your child or young person’s mental health is just as important as their
physical health and JIA. You know your youngster better than anyone; if you notice a change in their mood, it’s important to address it with them. Brushing things under the carpet, won’t solve the issue. Sometimes we can miss poor mental health, and this is perfectly understandable. As many as 1 in 3 children and young people with a long-term condition and pain have mental health issues. Low mood and depression can affect the frequency and intensity of pain symptoms and the healing rate.

At JIA-at-NRAS we have several resources to support you.

  • You can download our guide on emotions and mental health here.
  • Take a look at this article on mindfulness article written by Lyn O'Donnell.
  • Here is a short animation on helping your child with their mental health:

We have created these resources as we know that mental health services and specific pain support clinics are not available to every child and young person with JIA, and in many areas where there is support, the waiting times are

Please also consider trying to access support from your GP or if your child is at school, ask them what counselling support they offer? And of course, don’t forget to speak to the specialist nurse or consultant caring for your child.

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