The link between psychiatry and chronic pain is not obvious. Psychiatry is the medical field concerned with diagnosing, preventing and treating mental disorders.
People who have to live with chronic pain do not generally regard themselves as needing to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist, or may in some cases believe that a referral to a psychiatrist might indicate that their doctor believes that their pain is 'in their head'.
This is not the case at all.
However, there is no dispute that chronic pain affects not just the part of the body that feels the pain, but can affect a person's very outlook on life. Some statistics from the United States show that there is a high correlation of some psychiatric disorders with chronic pain…
- 40-60% of patients with chronic pain experience depression.
- 40-60% of patients with chronic pain experience anxiety.
- 10% of patients with chronic pain have PTSD (Post Traumatic Street Disorder).
- Up to 20% of patients with chronic pain have drug or alcohol problems.
For these reasons, the team at Melbourne Pain Group works closely with psychiatrists when helping patients with chronic pain, so that all aspects of treating and dealing with chronic pain can be addressed.
At an initial appointment with a psychiatrist, you will be asked not only questions about the pain you have, but also related questions about how it is affecting your life in general – your emotional state and your ability to live your life, from personal and family life to work life.
The psychiatrist will be able to diagnose any psychiatric disorders present (such as depression or anxiety), even where they are only mild forms.
With this information the psychiatrist, working with other health professionals at the practice, will be able to help you plan how to treat - and cope with - the pain, with advice and treatment that treats the chronic pain in a holistic fashion, rather than in a disjointed fashion.
In some cases, the psychiatrist may recommend treatment for any psychiatric disorder, for example antidepressant medication if they determine you have a form of depression.