Is depression common with severe burns and burn pain?

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Dr. Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgeon
Depression may be associated with chronic burn pain. In patients with debilitating burns, major endogenous depression may require psychological intervention. Patients may require anti-depression medications and psychotherapy. 

Depression is extremely common with burn pain or any type of chronic (long-term) pain. In fact, symptoms of depression start to appear in the acute phase of recovery. Ironically, the presence of a depressive disorder has also been shown to increase the risk of developing chronic pain. People who are depressed experience greater pain, describe greater problems from the pain, and have more pain behaviors (immobility) than person’s with chronic pain who are not depressed. 

Some people with chronic burn pain are well aware that they are depressed. The signs are obvious: uncontrollable tearfulness, a persistent sad or anxious mood, feelings of hopelessness, guilt or irritability, loss of interest in nearly all activities, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating or making decisions and, in severe cases, thoughts of death or suicide. A study found that 50 percent of the chronic pain patients questioned had considered suicide.

Talk with your VA doctor. Consider talking with a therapist about your emotional state and mental health issues. There are excellent treatments for depression with chronic pain that can help boost your mood so you can focus on rehabilitation and recovery.

Depression can be a common side effect of severe burns. Because they are slow to heal and can lead to physical scarring, people may feel depressed after a severe burn. People who feel depressed should talk to their doctor, who may recommend medication, therapy, or support groups.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.