Background: Pain complaints commonly accompany major depressive disorder (MDD). However, whether patients with MDD and pain complaints differ from those without pain complaints is not well studied.
Objective: The objective of this study was to compare depressed outpatients with and those without current pain complaints in terms of sociodemographic, clinical, and presenting symptom features.
Methods: The baseline clinical and sociodemographic data of a large representative outpatient sample with nonpsychotic MDD (n=3745) enrolled in the STAR*D (Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression) study were collected. Baseline information on pain complaints was based on Item No. 25 (somatic pain) of the 30-item Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology-Clinician Rating (IDS-C(30)).
Results: After adjusting for sex, depression severity (IDS-C(30) less Item No. 25), and general medical comorbidities (as measured by the Cumulative Illness Rating Scale total score), we found clinically meaningful differences between patients with and those without pain complaints. Younger, African American, Hispanic, and less educated patients were more likely to report pain complaints. In addition, those with pain complaints were more likely to report anxious features with irritable mood, sympathetic nervous system arousal, and gastrointestinal problems as well as poorer quality of life. Neither a more chronic course of illness nor suicidal ideation was associated with pain.
Conclusions: Pain complaints are common among outpatients with MDD and are associated with certain symptom features and poorer quality of life. However, the findings of this study suggest that depression accompanied by pain complaints does not increase the clinical psychiatric burden or chronicity of depression.