Can depression cause physical symptoms? You may be familiar with the symptoms of “sadness” associated with depression or the numb, complete lack of emotion you can sometimes feel. When you are depressed, it may feel like your emotions are completely shut down, and you lack the energy or enthusiasm to do anything. Even going out of your house to meet with friends can seem like too much trouble.
However, you can actually experience a number of physical symptoms with depression, too. Those random aches and pains you feel could be physical signs of depression. Depression can cause a number of physical symptoms you might not realize are associated with your mental health.
What Are Physical Symptoms of Depression?
There is no real separation between the mind and the body. The effects of your mental health do not just stay in your head. They travel throughout your body and effect how you feel physically. Emotions are regulated in your brain with chemical messengers the same way physical functioning is. When you are not experiencing good mental health, your physical health suffers, too.
Pain is an especially serious sign of depression because chronic pain can also cause depression. Untreated, pain can compound depression and keep you from resolving your mental health. There are also other physical symptoms of depression, including:
- Exhaustion/Fatigue — This may be one of the most obvious physical symptoms of depression. It is not unusual to be tired or sleep a lot when you are experiencing depression. It can feel like the result of your low mood. You are not energized to do anything, so you just go to sleep. Fatigue can lead to depression or be a result of it. Excessive sleeping seems to make you more tired, and it can deepen the feelings of depression.
- Headaches/Migraines — Migraines and depression co-occur often, but it can be difficult to determine which condition caused the other. They become intertwined and need to be treated simultaneously. Serotonin and norepinephrine are affected by depression. These brain messenger chemicals are also involved in headache formation. Instead of suppressing random pain impulses, serotonin and norepinephrine levels in depression allow those messages to get to your brain, resulting in migraine headaches.
- Muscle/Joint Aches & Pains — Chronic pain can lead to depression, and depression can exacerbate the symptoms of chronic pain. When your daily movements are limited by pain, it takes an emotional toll. Depression reduces your ability to suppress pain messages in your brain, so the pain is magnified. The pain-depression cycle can be hard to break.
- Digestive Problems — Chronic digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome or nausea may be signs of depression when no physical cause is determined. It is possible to get a stomach ache from depression and not realize the correlation. Depression changes the balance of brain chemicals and can affect physical functioning. Additionally, chronic digestive problems, like chronic pain, can add to your depression.
- Chest Pain — Chest pain can be a sign of a serious physical condition and should always be evaluated by a doctor. In the absence of heart disease or other physical causes, chest pain can be the result of depression. The emotional condition that some refer to as a broken heart can actually affect your heart. The physical pain reinforces your mental state. Panic and anxiety can also cause chest pain from a tightening of muscles in that region.
- Extreme Weight Loss or Weight Gain — Depression can affect your body weight in either direction. Fatigue and exhaustion may limit your activities while you use sugary foods to soothe yourself. In other cases, depression creates a complete ambivalence to food and a loss of appetite. Extreme weight loss or weight gain could be the result of depression.
Physical symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor to correctly diagnose their cause. Digestive problems may require additional treatment to even after the depression is treated. Treating physical symptoms like chronic pain may help to reduce depression as well. Other symptoms will need simultaneous treatment along with your mental health.
Depression is a mental health condition that can have serious consequences. The emotional symptoms can become debilitating, but there are also physical symptoms to consider. The physical symptoms of depression may make it easier to diagnose the depression and get the proper treatment.