7 Physical Symptoms of Depression That Should Never Be Ignored

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Written by Riri

October 20, 2020

Depression can be a severe illness. Millions of people have had at least one episode of major depression, and many do not know how to react when it occurs.

The symptoms of depression can extend beyond a person’s emotions and mental health. Depression can also affect a person’s physical health.

In this article, learn about these physical effects of depression, including chronic pain, weight changes, and inflammation.

What is depression?

Depression often causes a person to feel sad and hopeless. Symptoms of depression may be a temporary experience in response to pain or trauma, but when symptoms last more than two weeks, there may be signs of a severe depressive disorder.

depression cronical pain depressed person
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The same symptoms may also be signs of another mental health condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar.

Depression symptoms:

The depressed mood on most days includes:

-feelings of sadness or emptiness;

-loss of pleasure in previously preferred activities;

-too little or too much sleep over several days;

-involuntary weight loss/gain or change in appetite;

-physical agitation or desire for inactivity;

-low energy or fatigue;

-strong sense of guilt or worthlessness;

-problems concentrating or making decisions;

-intrusive thoughts of death or suicide.

woman with depression looking zoom out

 The symptoms of depression vary from person to person and can change over time. For a doctor to make a correct diagnosis, a person must have five or more symptoms present consecutively over two weeks.

Researchers have documented several ways in which depression can affect physical health, the main ones being the following:

1. Weight gain or weight loss and gastrointestinal problems

People with depression often have stomach or digestive problems, such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, or constipation. Some people with depression also suffer from chronic conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome.

According to studies, this may be because depression changes the brain’s response to stress by suppressing activity in the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands.

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

                                                                         C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

While depression is often thought of as a mental illness, it also plays an important role in influencing appetite and diet.

Some people often experience overeating. This can lead to weight gain and obesity, or even type 2 diabetes. You may even lose your appetite altogether or not eat the right amount of nutritious food. A sudden loss of interest in food in older adults can lead to a condition called geriatric anorexia. Possible symptoms of depression are stomach ache, cramps, constipation.

These symptoms may not improve with medication if a person does not eat the right diet. Sweets and high-carbohydrate foods can provide immediate relief, but the effects are often temporary. It is important to maintain a healthy diet when someone is experiencing depression. Nutrients are essential to make sure your body’s neurotransmitters work well. According to a study, the most common vitamin and nutrition deficiencies are fatty acids, omega-3, vitamin B, minerals, amino acids.

women with intrusive thoughts of death or suicide on a bridge

2. Chronic pain

People with depression may experience unexplained pain, including joint or muscle pain, tenderness in the breast area, and headache.

The symptoms of a person’s depression can worsen due to chronic pain.

3. Heart disease

Depression can reduce a person’s motivation to make positive lifestyle choices. Their risk of getting sick increases when they have a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

Depression can also be an independent risk factor for heart health problems. According to researchers, one in five people with heart failure or coronary artery disease has depression.

4. Inflammation

A person with depression is quite likely to have an inflammatory condition.

Research shows that chronic stress and depression are linked to inflammation and can change the immune system. Other sources suggest that depression may be due to chronic inflammation.

People with depression are more likely to have inflammatory conditions or autoimmune disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis.

However, it is not clear whether depression causes inflammation or chronic inflammation makes someone more vulnerable to depression. More studies are needed to understand the connection between the two.

5. Sexual health problems

People with depression may have low libido, may have trouble becoming aroused, no longer have orgasms, or have less pleasant orgasms.

Some people also face relationship problems due to depression, which can have an impact on sexual activity.

intrusive thoughts of death or suicide cronic pain women with depression

6. Worsening of chronic health conditions

People who already have a chronic health condition may feel that their symptoms are more severe if they develop depression.

Chronic infections can already feel isolating or stressful, and depression can influence these feelings.

People who suffer from depression and have a chronic illness should talk to a doctor about strategies to address both conditions. Maintaining mental health can improve physical health and make a chronic condition easier to manage.

7. Sleep problems

Depression can contribute to insomnia. People with depression may have insomnia or sleep problems. This condition can leave them feeling exhausted, making it difficult to manage their physical and mental health.

Doctors link sleep deprivation to several health problems. They correlated long-term sleep deprivation with high blood pressure, diabetes, weight problems, and some cancers.

Physical symptoms of depression in children

The coronavirus pandemic can be extremely stressful for some people. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming for both adults and children.   

Depression can be more difficult to detect in children who cannot express their symptoms. The behaviors you would like to take care of include persistent worry and unwillingness to go to school without improving over time. Children can also be overly irritable and negative.

Recognizing that depression can cause physical health problems can help a person seek treatment and make changes to help manage the symptoms of depression.

Depression is treatable. A doctor may recommend a combined approach, using a medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. With the right support, a person can manage both the physical and mental effects of depression.

 

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