- Although depression is a mental health disorder, it can also manifest itself in a lot of physical symptoms.
- Depression can impact your eating patterns and sleep patterns.
- It can also cause you to feel dizzy or experience chronic joint and muscle pain.
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Even though depression is categorized as a mental health condition, it can impact way more than just your mind.
From muscle aches to a low sex drive, depression can cause you to experience a host of physical symptoms you might not even associate with your mental health.
Since many of these symptoms are so closely linked to other physical ailments or disorders, it can be easy for even medical professionals to misattribute them to something other than depression.
Here are some physical symptoms of depression that you could be experiencing.
Although this list can be helpful to reference, if you are feeling depressed or are concerned about your overall health, you should see a doctor or medical expert to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
You might notice you’re eating more than usual … or not eating much at all
One of the physical symptoms that clinicians check for when diagnosing depression is a change in appetite or weight, explained Carly Claney, Ph.D, a Seattle-based licensed clinical psychologist.
“One of the criterion symptoms for major depressive episode is significant weight change or appetite disturbance. Depression is associated with changes in hormones such as cortisol and serotonin which trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response. These hormones can have an effect on increased ’emotional eating’ or decreased appetite as a way for the body to attempt to regulate the experience of stress,” Claney told INSIDER.
Our appetites are closely linked with our mental health, so some people may find themselves eating more to soothe their feelings whereas others may find food to be less appealing.
“If eating was an enjoyable activity [prior to the onset of depression], a person may limit this behaviour,” added Madeline William, a psychologist who treats patients via telehealth app, LiveHealth Online. “Alternatively, if eating is a soothing or numbing activity, they may overindulge in this behaviour.”
Digestive issues may occur as a result of changes in mood and appetite
“Depression changes how the mind and body respond to stress, which may lead to suppression of activity in many important systems in our bodies, including how the body processes food,” said William.
Sudden changes in your diet, such as eating more or less than usual or changing the types of foods you eat, “can lead to digestive issues such as nausea, constipation, and diarrhoea,” said Jennifer J. Marks-Foster, a St. Louis-based licensed clinical psychologist.
You might find yourself sleeping more or less
“Depression can be linked to both a lack of sleep or an increase in sleep,” said William. “Sleep deprivation can be a dangerous problem, as it leads to many additional health issues, including impacting one’s blood pressure, weight management, metabolism, judgment, and perception.”
“Sleep disruptions aren’t always just a lack of sleep,” added Marks-Foster. “Many people also experience hypersomnia, too much sleep, as well as maintenance insomnia, which is difficulty remaining asleep through the night.”
You may also feel exhausted or fatigued
Naturally, if you’re experiencing insomnia as a result of your depression, you’ll feel the effects of disrupted sleep throughout the day.
“The experience of depression fatigue is very common and may be caused by sleep problems, diet, stress, or medication,” Claney told INSIDER. “Depression is often linked to varying levels of dopamine and serotonin, which directly relate to one’s mood and energy levels.”
“It is also likely that a person who is depressed is carrying a heavy psychological burden that is mentally and emotionally taxing. This emotional burden can also be felt physically,” she added.
Restlessness is another common symptom of depression
“For some, depression may include rapid thoughts of worry, doubt, worthlessness, or general negativity,” said William.
“These thoughts are alarming and excite or set off activity in our bodies and minds which are usually inhibited or shut down when we try to relax, rest, or sleep. This may cause a sense of restlessness while also causing a feeling of exhaustion or fatigue,” she explained.
Chronic pain, including joint aches and muscle aches, might be linked to depression
Depression can feel physically painful and if you’re experiencing chronic pain you might not immediately think it’s related to your mental health, explained Jephtha Tausig, a licensed clinical psychologist.
“Very often, unexplained aches and pains are very real – they are not faked or imagined. But if there is no physical explanation to account for these symptoms, then it could be the body expressing the mind’s disquiet, such as depression, anxiety, or other distress,” Tausig told INSIDER.
Pain, soreness, and aches can occur in joints, muscles, or really anywhere throughout the body, and it can come and go depending on the person.
Chronic pain is also associated with many other conditions, including fibromyalgia, lupus, and Lyme disease, among others, so being your own advocate when it comes to your mental and physical health is crucial.
Frequent headaches or migraines can be another symptom of depression
“Individuals with depression often struggle with headaches – specifically, they may report symptoms of what is frequently characterised as a tension headache,” explained Dara Gasior, who has a doctorate in psychology and is the director of assessment and training at High Focus Centres, a New Jersey-based treatment facility.
“These headaches are believed to be caused by sustained or tightened muscle contraction of the scalp and neck muscles. As people struggle with depression, feeling overwhelmed, sad, tired, lethargic – all of this has an impact on the body.”
Feeling dizzy or faint is also common
Marks-Foster noted that a couple of factors, such as disrupted sleep or dehydration, might lead to someone feeling faint during a depressive episode.
“A person may find him or herself lying in bed all day and not getting up for water,” she told INSIDER, which can cause them to feel dizzy.
You might notice a change in your sex drive, too
In some cases, a lack of sexual interest could be your body’s way of telling you that something is not right, according to William.
“Depression causes a loss of interest in and motivation to seek pleasure,” she told INSIDER. “This commonly relates to one’s libido, felt sense of sexual attractiveness, and interest in initiating sex.”
Changes in your speech patterns might also occur
Another lesser-known side effect of depression is slowed or halted speech, said Gasior.
“The ability to speak is closely related to psychomotor function, thinking and concentration, and the speed of information processing, all of which are frequently impaired in psychiatric disorders such as depression,” she told INSIDER.
“This impairment can also impact speech patterns, and recent research has shown that more severely depressed patients tended to speak slower, take a longer time to complete the same number of words, and display longer pauses between words and sentences,” she added.
If you’re dealing with depression, your voice may also be more flat and monotone than usual.
A symptom of depression could also be a new or worsened skin condition, like psoriasis or alopecia
Depression can cause or exacerbate skin conditions, according to Los Angeles-based board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD.
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