By Philippa Bridge-Cook, PhD
The alarming text came to my phone on a Friday afternoon: “I want to die.” It was from a friend with endometriosis who was suffering with intense pain again, and feeling like the continual suffering was unbearable. That text led to a visit to the ER, which ended up resulting in a three day hospital stay in a short stay mental health unit. Unfortunately, not much has changed: the cycle of pain continues, and my friend remains uncertain of how to cope with the severe pain which is sure to come again.
Sadly, this was not the first incident of severe depression and suicidal thoughts that I have been aware of associated with endometriosis. In the past month alone, throughout our support network I am aware of four other instances where people expressed suicidal thoughts and wanting to die because of the despair and hopelessness of dealing with pain that most people do not understand. And many people with endometriosis continue to suffer in severe pain despite medical treatment, so it can be particularly difficult to be hopeful for a better future.
Chronic pain from any cause has been shown to be associated with depression. This is not a surprising finding, as anyone who has lived with pain for any significant amount of time will know that the social isolation, inability to participate in normal activities of daily life, and sheer exhaustion, can lead to feelings of depression and hopelessness. Patients with chronic pain have a two to five fold increased risk for developing depression, and each condition affects the other: depression can worsen the perception of pain, and pain can worsen depression. Furthermore, studies have shown that when pain is moderate to severe, impairs daily functioning, and is difficult to treat, it is associated with worse depressive symptoms and outcomes.
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