When your mental health suffers, it isn’t just about your emotions or mental state. You often suffer physical symptoms, as well. This is certainly true of depression, a mental illness that affects 15 million adults in the United States. Depression has even been found to be the leading cause of disability for adults between the ages of 15-44. That’s because while it may be a mental illness, it is impossible for depression to remain “all in your head” without impacting other areas of your life.
In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the common physical symptoms that can accompany depression.
Changes in Appetite or Sleep
Depression can impact the appetite in one of two ways. People with depression will sometimes undereat, forgetting to feed themselves or failing to muster up the energy to prepare three meals per day. It can also result in overeating as a way of numbing some of the symptoms of depression. It’s common for someone suffering a major depressive episode to order junk food rather than cook a balanced meal, or prioritize easy food over healthy food.
What you eat can have an impact on the way your body feels. With poor eating habits, you can feel bloated, clammy, nauseous, or lethargic. This is only exacerbated by other symptoms of depression. This is also why depression and eating disorders tend to be closely linked. Excess drinking or substance abuse can also occur.
Depression can also impact the amount of sleep you get. During a depressive episode, you may have significantly reduced energy or difficulty getting out of bed. This can lead to longer naps or sleeping for ten hours or more. On the other hand, those with manic depression could experience manic episodes in which it is difficult to fall asleep or they may even pull all-nighters in the midst of their mania.
Headaches and Nausea
Depression sometimes results in headaches, migraines, and nausea. Tension headaches are common with depression, especially when combined with anxiety. A tension headache tends to feel like a dull ache and tightness across the top of the head and the scalp. They can come in episodes or they may be chronic.
Many people with depression mention feeling nauseous when in the midst of deep emotional turmoil. During the midst of an intense depressive episode or a particularly upsetting scenario, you may feel sick to your stomach. This can impact your appetite, or may even be exacerbated by your changes in appetite.
A dull ache in the chest, or even a sharp chest ache, can be a physical symptom of depression. It’s common for those suffering depressive episodes to feel as though there is a weight on their chest, and sometimes that sensation is beyond the emotional. Depression has also been found to raise the risk of heart disease in patients.
Joint Pain and Back Pain
When you experience stress, physical or emotional, your body can develop aches and pains. The joints and sciatica area of the back are particularly susceptible to these pains. Because of this, joint pain and back pain can be a symptom of depressive episodes. If you already have issues with joint or back pain, depression can exacerbate these symptoms.
Similar to joint and back pain, many patients with depression experience limb pain. They may feel a heaviness in their limbs, a dull ache, or occasional shooting pains. This can often come from staying inactive for too long, which is all too common during depressive episodes.
Fatigue and Lack of Energy
This goes hand-in-hand with issues of sleep. The main symptom of depression is a deep feeling of lethargy or a lack of energy. You may find that even after sleeping ten hours or more, you still feel exhausted. This can be a seemingly never ending cycle during depressive episodes. Going out for a walk and eating healthily can help you to have more energy, but that very lethargy makes it difficult to do those very things. When depressed, even the smallest tasks can feel as though they take momentous effort.
Slowed Movements and Motor Functions
In the midst of depression, you may find yourself speaking or moving more slowly. A common indicator of depression on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) is “moving or speaking so slowly that others have noticed.” The final point is because it may be difficult to notice the change in your movements or motor functions in the midst of a depressive episode. If others have pointed out that you’re moving more slowly, this could well be a symptom of depression.
Loss of Libido
Tied to lack of energy and fatigue, you may experience a low sex drive when depressed. This is similar to some of the emotional symptoms of depression, such as losing interest in things that usually bring you joy. For many people, sex is an important form of intimacy with a partner as well as a regular enjoyable physical activity. A loss of libido can be a frustrating physical symptom of depressive episodes.
Reduced activity and a change in appetite can result in unwanted weight fluctuation. If your depression causes you to eat less or you spend less time going to the gym, you could find yourself losing weight. On the other hand, if depression leads to overeating for you, you may gain weight instead. Frequent weight fluctuation can increase your risk of a heart attack, so if you find your weight is fluctuating too much, this is something you will want to bring up with your mental health professionals.
Depression can affect all aspects of your life, including debilitating physical symptoms. That’s why it’s important to approach mental healthcare holistically, which is exactly our process at Rivia. We have professionals like therapists and counselors, psychiatrists, specialists in different areas of mental health, and nutritionists to help maintain your physical health as well as mental and emotional health.
Contact Rivia today to learn more about how we can help you with all of your symptoms of depression, or to schedule a 15-minute consultation.