TMJ Depression Symptoms

TMJ Depression Symptoms

While there is not a direct scientific cause-and- effect relationship between the two conditions, people
who experience chronic pain often suffer from depression. People with TMJ are no exception.
Several medical studies point to this connection. When someone has TMD, or temporomandibular joint
disorder, the hinge connecting his or her upper and lower jaw is not working properly. A 2002 study
conducted by researchers at the National University of Singapore found that people diagnosed with
myofascial joint pain had higher levels of depression than patients diagnosed with only disk

A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Prosthodontics concluded that psychological
factors play an important role in TMD, as demonstrated by an increase in levels of depression in TMD
patients. An article published in 2013 in the Journal of Pain also linked TMD and depression. The article
cited a study by German researchers of more than 4,000 patients that revealed a moderate to strong
link between depression and TMD.  All of these studies show us that the correlation is very high regardless of the difficulty of establishing a cause and effect relationship between the two.

Chronic pain can cause chemical changes in the brain. Scientists have discovered that brain cells of a
person with chronic pain — especially in part of the brain that controls emotions and feelings —
deteriorate more rapidly than normal.

Therefore, it becomes more difficult for people with chronic pain to process changes in their
environment and to handle multiple tasks. These limitations can cause depression and anxiety. In
addition, chronic pain also affects the part of the brain that regulates the sleep cycle.

According to Harvard Health Publications, chronic pain is a complicated emotional condition as well as a
physical sensation. Pain can cause depression, and depression can cause or intensify pain.  Harvard
research reveals that people with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing
psychiatric symptoms — usually experienced as anxiety disorders — and the reverse connection is true
as well. Depressed people have three times the average risk of developing chronic pain.

This complex connection makes treating TMJ dysfunction difficult.  Does TMD cause depression or does depression cause TMD? The 2006 study cited earlier points to the former conclusion by stating, “These results were in accordance with findings that support the notion that the pain induces psychologic sequelae.”

Defining Depression and TMJ Dysfunction

The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines depression as serious medical condition that involves the
body and the mind. It influences the way a person eats, sleeps and thinks. Chronic pain is defined as pain that extends beyond the normally expected period of healing.

When someone experiences chronic pain, such as the headaches, jaw pain and neck pain that are
associated with TMD, it affects everything from working, to sleeping to socializing.

Since depression and chronic pain go hand in hand, it is important that TMD patients seek help from
several medical professionals and are trained properly and equipped to effectively diagnose and treat these symptoms.  These would include a neuromuscular dentist as well as a psychological counselor, a
chiropractor and/or physician.

People who experience TMD and depression tend to feel a loss of control over their lives. Lack of sleep
and chronic headaches, which are symptoms of TMD, can make depression symptoms worse. For example, the pain can cause a fear of movement, and that fear of movement can lead someone to be isolated. Isolation can lead to further depression. However, doctors have discovered that when the pain is treated, depression can lessen, and when the depression is treated, pain can diminish.

Many people who suffer from TMD also may suffer from depression because their condition has been
misdiagnosed for years or, worse yet, dismissed as having no physical cause. In fact, musculoskeletal tension and misalignment are the causes for TMJ pain in up to 85% of cases seen by neuromuscular dentists.  This myofascial is often associated with other common TMJ disorder symptoms.

Here are some of the symptoms of TMD:

And here are common symptoms of depression:

  • Anxious or sad mood
  • Difficulty with falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Change in appetite
  • Low energy and/or lack of motivation

What Steps Should Someone Suffering From TMJ Dysfunction and Depression Take?

A good first step is to visit a neuromuscular dentist who is experienced in treating TMD. This
professional will discuss and evaluate your symptoms, at first seeking non-invasive ways to treat your

Some patients experience complete pain relief from the treatment their neuromuscular dentist provides
and from the peace of mind that comes from having their condition diagnosed and treated. Other patients need to work with their neuromuscular dentist as well as another specialist, such as a psychological counselor to find complete relief.  It is important to identify and isolate the actual causes with a medical professional that has been trained to assess both issues separately and to establish the connection so that you can resolve chronic pain and gain the tools that will help you live a happy life again.  To find a trained TMJ dentist near you, use our search function.  To find a psychologist or counselor you may utilize the search function found here.

Sources: effects-untreated- chronic-pain/ mood/depression_and_pain

Other TMJ Disorder Symptoms:

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