European psychiatry : the journal of the Association of European Psychiatrists vol:21 issue:6 pages:379-388
OBJECTIVE: The presence of painful physical symptoms may confound the diagnosis of major depressive disorder and may worsen patient prognosis. Epidemiological literature was reviewed to investigate the association between depression and painful physical symptoms. METHOD: MEDLINE and EMBASE database searches were conducted. Studies where a definable organic basis for pain was given were excluded. The search was unrestricted by language but limited to European studies and countries. After filters were applied, 70 eligible studies were reviewed. RESULTS: The majority of studies reviewed showed an association between depression and painful physical symptoms. Over 40% of all studies examining the association between pain and depression were carried out in pain clinics in secondary care. Very few studies were conducted in psychiatric settings. CONCLUSION: The findings of this review suggest that painful physical symptoms may be an important part of the depressive syndrome. Although the relationship between depression and painful physical symptoms is not yet fully understood, findings suggest that diagnosis and treatment of depression should involve investigating and treating the full spectrum of symptoms (emotional and physical). Further research in psychiatric and generalist settings is needed to elucidate the relationship between depression and painful physical symptoms as experienced by patients and at the clinical level.