It would be difficult to overstate the number of clients who have come to us over the years frustrated when a doctor or therapist suggested they were depressed. In our society depression is often seen as a character flaw, a weakness, or an excuse. Without doubt, these injured workers are genuinely offended that someone is suggesting that “it’s all in their head.”
On the other hand a prominent psychiatrist who deals with a lot of injured workers testified in a deposition that 80% of people who suffer from chronic pain, (defined as pain lasting for at least six months), will develop clinical depression. Our bodies are just not made to deal with high pain levels for that long of a time. And the fact that former co-workers, adjusters, and rehabilitation nurses are often less than sensitive to an injury that seems to go on indefinitely doesn’t help.
When speaking with doctors about this most of them have readily agreed that it’s very rarely JUST in someone’s head. But they do cite numerous studies, which confirm what the psychiatrist detailed and note that those studies often suggest that if the mental outlook improved then the patient’s capacity to cope with the pain would improve. That doesn’t mean the pain goes away… it doesn’t. It’s just that it’s easier to deal with it and function in spite of it.
We’ve long recommended that our clients develop at least an informal network of people who can provide emotional support as you work through this. That’s all the more true when you don’t get better on schedule, when you cannot return to your old job, or when financial pressures get increasingly difficult. This may be family (although it’s already tough on family), a couple of close friends from church, or a counselor. The important thing is to not try to tough it out. We’re all human and when you have difficult workers compensation case it’s not time to try to be superman.