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Physical Symptoms of Depression, Understand How Depression Affects the Body

Depression affects nearly 15 million adults in the United States each year and is the leading cause of disability for Americans aged 15 to 44, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. With so many people experiencing depression and the increase in people who share their struggles, public understanding is increasing. Still, there are some areas of depression not as well understood, like the physical symptoms of depression.

For example, most people are aware that depression affects the mind, changing the way people view the world around them. They know that people with depression may have mental or emotional symptoms such as a sense of listlessness, numbness, apathy, anxiety, or despair and that they can find it hard to feel motivated to do even the things they used to enjoy. But how does depression affect the body?

What many people don’t realize is that depression can also affect the health of the body with a variety of physical signs of depression. The physical symptoms of depression are real and measurable, and these symptoms can provide important clues to ourselves and our loved ones. 

Physical Symptoms of Depression

There are many physical symptoms of depression, but the most common include pain in the back, limbs, or joints, headaches or migraines, unhealthy sleep patterns, appetite changes, slow thinking, and gastrointestinal problems. Learn more about each of these symptoms below.

Physical Symptoms of Depression

1. Pain in the back, limbs or joints.

According to a study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, physical pain often manifests itself in people who suffer from depression because both pain and mood are influenced by the same neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine. If something goes wrong, both depression and symptoms of physical pain can occur.

2. Headaches or migraines.

A study published in the 2009 issue of General Hospital Psychiatry demonstrated a relationship between migraines, including chronic migraines, and mental disorders.

3. Unhealthy sleep patterns.

People suffering from depression frequently have trouble sleeping, insomnia or  may sleep too much. No matter how much sleep they get, they can still feel worn out.
Excessive tiredness. Even when a person with depression sleeps excessively, they may not be able to overcome feelings of tiredness. They may have difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things.

4. Appetite changes.

People suffering from depression can experience a reduced appetite and weight loss or may instead crave food and gain weight.

5. Slow thinking, speaking or movements.

Problems with psychomotor activity increases based on the severity of the depression. Activities such as writing, folding laundry, cooking, and playing sports all rely on psychomotor activity and can be negatively impacted by depression. Psychomotor activity challenges are one of the depression side effects that can greatly impact people at school or in the workplace.

6. Gastrointestinal problems.

Irritable bowels, bloating, constipation, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea — all of these are among the physical side effects of depression.

Treating the Physical Symptoms of Depression

Because the physical symptoms of depression are caused by the same factors that create the mental symptoms, treatment for the root cause can improve both kinds of depression side effects.

For example, antidepressant medications that correct an imbalance of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain can help to improve mood while also reducing physical pain. Other medications that can help treat symptoms of depression are ones that help with anxiety, which often accompanies depression, and sleep aids such as melatonin, which can help promote a healthier sleep cycle.

Therapy can also improve both the mental and physical symptoms of depression. As people with depression receive treatment to work through some of the mental and emotional challenges depression creates, the physical symptoms may resolve in the process.

If you or a loved one are suffering from the mental or physical side effects of depression, The Phoenix Recovery Center is here to help. We offer treatment and care for depression and anxiety that is research-driven and tailored to each patient’s individual needs. Visit our website or call 800-704-0669 to learn more.

For additional information about living with depression, check out the following blog posts:

If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, Call Now for Immediate Help (801) 438-3185

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT