Chronic Pain and Mental Health with Dr. Gilbert Masterson

chronic pain woman sitting on a bench in the middle of a grassland alone

When chronic pain has you benched, it can impact your mental health.

It is a beautiful morning, the sun shining through the blinds, and you are ready to meet a brand new day. But hopping from the bed with optimism has become a problem because your back, knees, hips, or that lingering migraine sends a shock of pain with the first footfall on the bedroom floor. You have chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that persists for more than several months and impacts the lives of about 20% of U.S. adults.


Chronic pain last months or years and happens in all parts of the body. It interferes with daily life and can lead to depression and anxiety. The first step in treatment is to find and treat the cause. When that isn’t possible, the most effective approach is a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes. [Cleveland Clinic Chronic Pain]


Chronic Pain and Mental Health

According to Sanford Behavioral Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Gilbert Masterson, chronic pain is closely connected to depression. At least 75% of Sanford patients report anxiety and depression at intake, and chronic pain can be the catalyst for the use of addictive drugs.


Dr. Masterson says, “The connection between chronic pain and depression is a fascinating topic. For years, there has been a debate about whether chronic pain and depression are on the same pathways. Pain and anxiety lead to addiction. At Sanford, we use a medication called duloxetine (commonly known as Cymbalta). This medication sits in the middle – it is not an opioid and is non-habit-forming. Interestingly, duloxetine is FDA-approved for depression and overthinking. It is also FDA-approved for chronic pain, so it treats depression and pain simultaneously.”


When dealing with chronic pain, it is a vicious cycle.  Getting relief can lead to substance use disorders, depression and other mental health issues. Depression can lead to substance use. Dr. Masterson says, “Studies show that if you have significant depression or anxiety, you need three times the opioids to get the ‘desired’ pain relief. So depression gives you the impression you need more pain medication, leading to the potential for addiction.”



Co-Occurring Treatment at Sanford Behavioral Health

What should you do to address lasting pain? The approach depends on factors such as type of pain, cause of pain and your age and overall health. The best treatment plans take the whole person into consideration with a psychiatric and medical assessment.


At Sanford Behavioral Health, our treatment programs address co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, through integrated therapy and medication management. Our psychiatrist-led team of nurse practitioners, licensed therapists, and addiction counselors work together to create plans for each patient to address all aspects of mental health. The most effective care integrates treatment for addiction, depression, and other complex or acute mental health conditions. Our services may include the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Medication management
  • Family support and education
  • 12-step meetings
  • Recreational therapy

At Sanford Behavioral Health, we understand the unique challenges of managing co-occurring disorders. We are committed to providing evidence-based, integrated treatment to support overall mental health and wellness.


Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit