15 Physical Symptoms of Depression That You Need to Know

You can actually feel depression in your body. Trying to understand your feelings can be really difficult. It can also be very confusing. Most of the… Simi - March 11, 2018

You can actually feel depression in your body. Trying to understand your feelings can be really difficult. It can also be very confusing. Most of the time you know that you’re feeling something, but you might not know exactly what it is. Experts have studied feelings and emotions at length and they offer some interesting tips. The most interesting thing to come out of their research is that you can actually understand your feelings if you take the time to feel your bodily sensations.

They have found a connection between our emotions and our body. This means that we feel our feelings in our bodies. Each emotion creates body sensations, so you can actually feel your feelings physically. If you are able to tune into your bodily sensations, you have been able to make the first step forward toward identifying your feelings.

Having a “butterfly in my tummy” is a well-known idiomatic phrase and we all know what it means. Have you ever felt that feeling? It is most probably connected to fear or anxiety. Have you ever felt a butterfly or knot in your tummy and only then realized that you were frightened for an exam or even a meeting with someone you fancied? How about a splitting tension headache, ever felt the sensation of having a red band on your forehead? Did you realize that sometimes this is connected to anger?

Now we have made the connection with feeling emotions in our body, let’s look at depression. How do you feel physically when you are depressed? Depression is actually a state of the absence of emotions, especially emotions like grief, fear, anger, and shame. Depression happens when those emotions become too much to deal with and become unbearably painful and out of control. Rather than letting these painful emotions cause havoc in our lives, we sink down into depression. What is less known is that we can also identify depression by identifying our bodily symptoms. Here are 15 physical symptoms that can help you to identify depression.

1. Lightheadedness- Feeling weird and off balance

Many people with depression live with chronic pain or other physical symptoms. Often people go for batteries of tests without getting any kind of results. You might realize that you have depression only after you realize that you have some kind of bodily symptoms. There are a wide variety of symptoms so you might not recognize them straight away. One that you might not ever have imagined being linked to depression is a feeling of being lightheaded and dizzy.

People who have had this, testify that it can go on for days, months or even years relentlessly. This worrying physical symptom often has no physical condition that can be found with a test. You can have a sensation of feeling light-headed, dizzy or have a worrying sense of vertigo. It can get so bad that you have to take time off from work. The more this symptom continues the more it can cause anxiety, worsening the sense of depression.

Some people have tried changing jobs or tried working from home, hoping that staying in a more protected environment will ease the feeling. People suffering from light-headedness with no visible medical condition have been treated with light antidepressants and some have also undergone cognitive therapy with good results.

Some people have testified that rather than staying indoors or in bed, actually going out and walking, in cool air and especially in nature, has helped them. So before you do anything radical like leaving your job or detaching yourself from your life to remain indoors, ask your doctor for help or for a referral. The important thing is not to let the symptoms overwhelm you and to seek help. You can lead a normal life.

2. Weight Gain – A fairly common symptom

Depression is twice as common in women as it is in men. For women who are continuously faced with images of thin women in the media, weight gain is especially difficult to deal with. Women who experience depression might also begin to increase their general food intake. Carbohydrates can be first on the list for people searching for comfort food. As women gain weight they also begin to feel increasingly guilty and remorseful. When seeing their body shape changing, almost unwittingly, their sense of helplessness increases. To subdue these emotions they turn to food thus completing the cycle of weight gain.

Weight gain also seems to be fairly common for women when they get to menopause. What is often not clear is that it can cause a vicious circle. The change in hormones can lead to depression and depression can affect the hormones that regulate the appetite. This makes you want to eat more than you usually do.

Studies report that depressed people are at a significantly higher risk of developing obesity than people without depression. Among depressed people, adolescent females, there is a particularly high risk for later obesity. These findings resulted from reviewing data from 16 studies. Weight gain can lead to a host of other physical symptoms many of which can further compound the depression.

Whether it’s a primary cause or secondary, depression could be the culprit. If you suddenly experience a relatively sudden change in weight, tell your doctor about your physical symptoms. Don’t assume that they will go away on their own.

3. Aches and Pains – Painful muscles and joints

There seems to be a connection between depression and an imbalance of some chemicals in your brain. Some of these chemicals are responsible for the way you feel pain. Many experts believe that depression can make you feel pain differently from other people. Some people have testified to feeling pain in their limbs as though they have been bed bound for a long period of time. Others say that their whole bodies hurt as though they had overdone a workout. This pain carries on for a while even if they try and move to limber up a bit.

Sometimes this kind of muscle pain or sore joints is accountable for depression. Just the act of holding your feelings inside of you can make them come out physically in the form of body pain. Remember what Shrek said, rather outside than inside. Suppressed emotions can manifest themselves in your body as physical pain. One study found that patients who had certified depression also had more severe pain. The research points to more disabling pain and more cardiorespiratory pain as compared to people without depression. This research opens the way to the new scientifically proven hypothesis of the connection between depression and pain that many depressed people are suffering.

This can also cause a feedback cycle when more pain leads to more depression. If you work and it hurts while you are doing it, the pain can make you feel low. People with fibromyalgia, who often suffer atrocious pain, are nearly 3 times more likely to have major depression than people without fibromyalgia, and depressed people seem to be more prone to fibromyalgia. Since pain and depression can sometimes go together, easing your pain may lift your depression as well. You could try cognitive behavioral therapy. It can teach you ways to deal better with pain.

4. Back pain

It’s not just from slouching over. Back pain is also common in people with anxiety and mood disorders. But it’s not just a mechanical problem that is caused when depressed people slouch causing back pain. Feeling low from time to time is a normal part of life, but being depressed is a very different thing. Depression can cause a variety of physical symptoms that persist and affect a person’s day-to-day life and back pain is one of these.

Depression seems to produce plenty of unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain is quite a common symptom of depression. If you have already had some kind of back pain before, then it is very likely to become a problem if you are depressed.

Back pain is a common sign of depression and often it becomes persistent and seems to continue with little or no relief in sight. Depression can make any kind of chronic pain worse and back pain is no exception. Back pain feels debilitating and lowers your vitality thus compounding the depression. In some cases, pain also leads to depression. For instance, if you have a lot of pain while walking or doing household work, it can make you feel low.

Studies have shown that the more severe the back pain, the more likely you are to experience depressive symptoms. If you feel like your back problems are keeping you from living the life you want to, then you are not alone. Some research has suggested that depression causes an increase in pain and inflammation through an increase in the cytokines proteins that appear to be more common in depressed patients. Since pain and depression can sometimes go together, easing your pain may lift your depression as well. You could try cognitive behavioral therapy. It can teach you ways to deal better with pain.

5. Digestive problems

If you have problems with digestion, cramps or a constantly bloated stomach, this could also be a symptom of your depression. A strong connection has been found between digestive problems like bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome and depression. The gut is particularly responsive to your mood states.

The majority of the nerve cells that manufacture most of the serotonin in your body are in the stomach. Serotonin is the chemical that affects your mood. You can call it your body’s mood-boosting neurotransmitter. If you are depressed less is manufactured, which leads to another feedback loop. To make matters worse, comfort foods, sugar and carbohydrates actually cause an imbalance of the bacteria in the stomach.

Some studies suggest that depression may actually be the result, rather than the cause of gastrointestinal disorders. Research has also looked at the association between these psychological and gastrointestinal disorders. It suggests that chronic gastrointestinal illness might affect psycho-social behavior.

So when we say that depression can actually cause digestive problems we don’t mean that the pain is all in a patient’s head. We mean that the chemical processes and physical effects associated with clinical depression can contribute to the presence of a person’s stomach issues.

6. Excessive sleeping

That feeling of being constantly exhausted… Do you feel that no matter how much you sleep, you still always feel tired and completely worn out? For some people just getting out of bed in the morning seems to be a nearly impossible mission. If you are constantly so tired that it limits your life this could be a symptom of depression. This kind of tiredness feels like you have the flu or you have been staying up too late for too long. Then when you try to get some extra sleep to recover, it never seems to get better. Maybe you also wake up in the morning with the feeling that you haven’t slept at all.

Sometimes along with these feelings of tiredness you may eat too much or too little, feel hopeless and worthless, and have other serious symptoms. People with depression often aren’t interested in doing any activity, regardless of the task or the required amount of effort. Sleep tends to become a habit to avoid the pain and discomfort of depression. Depression in itself is something really exhausting to deal with.

This is because depression uses up a lot of your emotional energy, which is then reflected in your lack of physical energy. Even though it seems impossible, some physical activity can actually help to re-energize you. Even the smallest amount of exercise might help in managing your depression. Exercise releases hormones into the body and brain that help to counteract depression. An overwhelming feeling of tiredness makes it hard to find the motivation to go walking, but even just a short walk could be hugely beneficial. Also just sitting outside in your garden for a while should have beneficial effects.

7. Insomnia

Counting sheep? Some people might have difficulty sleeping too much but others actually have difficulty sleeping enough. Depression can cause a wide range of insomnia symptoms. This includes difficulty falling asleep as well as difficulty staying asleep.

Depression often comes with a lack of energy and an overwhelming feeling of fatigue, which can be among the most debilitating symptoms of depression. Surprisingly, as tired as you may feel, depression can affect your sleep quality. The lack of good restful sleep can make you anxious and this can worsen the condition.

Sleep disturbance is a common distressing symptom of depression and is often unresolved by treatment. Sleep disturbance is an indicator of alterations in brain neurotransmitter function. It also leads to impairments in quality of life. Researchers found that nearly one in five patients with depression experienced insomnia. More than half of those reported that lack of sleep severely affected the quality of their lives. A lack of sleep can lead to problems with the production of the growth hormone and can change REM sleep.

Problems falling asleep and staying asleep are in fact one of the most common signs of depression. Depression is often diagnosed by checking your sleep patterns. After qualified help, there are still some things you can do. People close to you can keep you on a regular sleep-wake cycle. Try and keep regular body clock times. The simple rhythm of Food-Activity-Rest can help. Morning light and physical activity improve mood and can also help people sleep. Decreasing light exposure before sleep may also make falling asleep easier. Some studies say that physical activity is as effective as medications to help depression.

8. Skin Problems

Having bad skin can be depressing, but it might actually be caused by depression. The mind and the skin are intertwined. There are many nerve endings that are connected to the skin. As emotions are played out neurologically, they can be expressed through the skin just as depression and anxiety can be expressed through other symptoms. Many skin disorders are rooted in the psyche.

Depression is associated with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone can cause acne and worsen conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Dermatology clinics are now making the connection between emotional disorders and skin problems. In one study some patients with mild to moderate acne or psoriasis rated highest on the Carroll Rating Scale for Depression.

Multiple studies have looked at the effect that some types of skin conditions have on one’s mental health. Eczema sufferers also seem to be more susceptible to experiencing episodes of depression. One survey reports that people have adverse psychological effects from eczema and often have depression. Again we have a chicken and egg situation. Having a lifelong chronic skin condition can cause depression but depression can also cause skin problems. Often the medical community doesn’t these aspects of dealing with a skin disease into consideration.

The lack of support can lead many sufferers to withdraw from others and isolate themselves leading to greater depression. Most people are aware of their emotional symptoms. But physical symptoms related to depression are often ignored because they are not seen as connected. If you feel that your depression is causing a skin condition that is making you suffer you should seek help. Support is essential so that you can prevent yourself from falling deeper into the abyss of depression.

9. Chest Pain

Chest pain is a well-known symptom of heart problems. What many people don’t know is that chest pain is one of the symptoms of depression and vice versa. Depression can affect heart rhythms and increase blood pressure. It can elevate insulin, cholesterol and stress hormone levels.

A rapid heartbeat can be a symptom of depression and anxiety, which together form a symptom called “anxious depression.” A lot of research has been dedicated to the connection between depression and cardiovascular health. Almost one in every three people who have heart disease also experiences depression. But what comes first here, the chicken or the egg? Studies have found that even people with mild depression have an increased possibility of heart failure and death. They show that people with coronary heart disease are at a high risk of depression. Visa versa, people with depression are at risk for coronary heart disease.

Chest pain and a rapid heartbeat could very well be symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Chest pain is also an important symptom of coronary artery disease. You should speak to your doctor who might want to refer you to a cardiologist for further investigation.

Both physical and psychological factors have been studied as suggested causes of chest pain. Depression varies from person to person, but chest pain is one of the more common symptoms. It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life’s normal lows. But the more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they’ve lasted—the more likely it is that you’re dealing with depression.

10. Migraines

Mood changes may trigger migraines. Research has shown that there is a link between migraines and depression. The studies demonstrate that if a person suffers from depression or migraines they run a risk of suffering from the other. If you have one symptom you are at a greater risk of developing the other. For some people with depression and anxiety disorders, headache pain might be very severe sometimes and occur often.

A migraine is a strong pain on one or both sides of the head, it is normally situated near the temples or behind an ear or an eye. The pain may even be strong enough to cause nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. The pain can last from a few hours to several days. A classic migraine also has an aura. This is likely to be something like a light flashing in the corners of the vision 10 to 30 minutes before a migraine attack.

One study even suggests that there is a specific association between depression and migraines with aura. Some studies show that people who have migraines with aura are more likely to suffer from depression than those with ordinary migraines. Researchers have found a connection between anxiety disorders, depression, and migraines. Migraines are common in people who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders.

Constant headaches are a common symptom of depression. Chronic co-occurring headaches can make functioning even more difficult for someone with depression. Having constant migraine headaches can also precede the onset of mental disorder. Depression is significantly higher in migraine sufferers than in the general population. Often migraines are followed by major depression.

11. Loss of appetite

Does food taste like cardboard? Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. The more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they’ve lasted the more likely it is that you’re dealing with depression. One of these symptoms is a loss of interest in food. Losing the ability to feel joy and pleasure, also means losing the ability to enjoy and taste your food. Both eating too much and not eating can be signs of depression. Once you understand the connection between depression and your appetite you can manage the depression better.

Any changes in your eating habits can be related to depression, especially to other symptoms like a loss of energy and interest in pleasurable activities like eating. Often people with depression can lose both energy and interest in doing things which can also mean a loss of interest in eating. This can happen more to older people with depression, who may lose the energy to cook, as well as their interest in cooking and eating.

Some people might have nausea associated with their depression and this can cause a loss of appetite. While a loss of appetite is a common depression symptom, feelings of sadness or worthlessness can make some people eat badly and end up undernourished. Emotional eating is when you eat in response to emotional hunger and you only eat food that gives you some comfort. Food changes the chemicals in the brain and improves mood.

The problem with a loss of appetite is that emotional eating can concern only specific food, thus causing malnutrition. You should talk to a doctor when you see a sudden change in appetite. This is a common sign of depression that should not be ignored. Sudden and severe weight loss can be dangerous to health and should be looked into.

12. Loss of libido

What happened to your sex life? Sex is a normal part of most people’s daily life and chronic depression affects every part of your life including your sexual activity. Depression can seriously affect your sex drive and the process can also work in reverse. It’s possible for a low libido to trigger feelings of depression.

Sex, on the other hand, can be extremely good for your mood and can help you with depression. Sex is also very good for relationships and having an important relationship can save you from depression. Depression can affect the balance of chemicals in your brain. A well-balanced brain chemistry is important for sexuality. Not only does the imbalance affect the chemistry but it also affects how we experience pleasure.

Depression can cause a loss of libido but it can also affect sexual functioning. People can take longer to orgasm and find sex less pleasurable. Depression makes you feel low and takes away your pleasure. But sexual arousal starts with the ability to actually anticipate pleasure. People who are depressed are locked in the moment of their suffering. If you’re depressed, you may feel like you don’t have enough energy for sex. Since depression can also cause you to enjoy activities less, you may find that you don’t enjoy sex the way you once did.

It’s important to remember that sexual function fluctuates over time anyway. It’s natural to go through phases when you don’t crave sex as much. But, if your libido has been low for an extended time, and if it’s causing you stress or sadness, it might be time to talk to your doctor.

13. Constipation

Believe it or not, constipation, a most common digestive complaint is also a symptom of depression. Constipation can make you feel bloated, headache, and irritable, and it is sometimes very difficult to cure. Chronic constipation is when you have infrequent bowel movements or difficulty in passing stools. The discomfort of chronic constipation itself can be debilitating. Research reports that there may be a link between depression and constipation.

Depression seems to happen when the body produces little serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical produced by the body. It functions as a neurotransmitter and influences our mood, emotions and sleep cycles. Almost all of the serotonin is produced in the gut. It could be that good gut health implies good mental health, what affects the stomach will affect the brain and vice versa. The sensations of emotions or anxiety that we feel in our stomach show us how our nervous system is linked to our gastrointestinal system.

Recently the link between the two systems has been researched more in-depth. Some research suggests the use of probiotics to ensure a stable mood. Having low levels of serotonin may contribute to both depression and constipation. Having constipation produces physical feelings of discomfort, tiredness, and headaches. Sometimes we eat comfort foods like carbohydrates and sugar as well as coffee and alcohol all of which make the situation worse.

Depression is a real illness with real symptoms and can, if not addressed, be damaging to that person. If you are suffering from low mood or anxiety as well as constipation, it is very important to discuss this with either your doctor or a health professional.

14. Oral problems

Bad breath and decaying teeth? Incredible though it may seem studies have shown a correlation between depression and tooth loss. Some of this is due to a lack of self-care in depressed individuals. Some links have also been found between inappropriate diet and depression. In one study, there was shown to be a significant relationship between depression and oral health. Depression affects a person’s ability to cope with daily life and affects oral health-related self-care behavior. Also, depression and oral health might be related to salivary changes in depressed patients.

As gut health changes with depression so do the production of saliva. A decreased salivary flow can lead to several oral health problems, such as an increase in pathogenic bacteria and dental decay. Comfort eating tends towards a higher level of carbohydrates and sugars. These affect dental health negatively. Depression is also linked to increased high-risk behavior like smoking, alcohol and drug abuse. These can cause oral damage.

The bacteria and chemicals from the gut are also present in the mouth. If the gut is out of balance this can cause an imbalance in the bacteria present in the mouth. It is easy to see that the mouth is connected to the rest of the body, and vice versa. Depression is partly an “inflammatory” disorder, meaning that inflammations can induce it. Periodontitis causes such inflammation.

Depression increases the circulating level of cortisol. Increased cortisol raises the risk of periodontal disease. Some of the medicines for depression can increase the risk of caries, periodontal disease, and oral infections. Antidepressant medications can also cause hyposalivation, which may lead to decay or other dental problems.

15. Loss of energy

A downward spiral… Having a lack of energy can send one into depression, but a lack of energy can also be a symptom of depression. Depression can rob you of all your energy. But often raising your energy by doing a physical activity like walking can help depression. It becomes a spiral that is difficult to climb out of. One of the most common symptoms of depression is physical fatigue or loss of energy.

Depression is linked to decreased concentration and slowed mental thinking. There is a reduction in activity and tiredness. Other symptoms are decreased physical endurance and general weakness. People with depression have to make a greater effort to do physical tasks. Suffering from depression can leave you feeling exhausted.

You may be feeling so tired and drained that you might be having a hard time going about your daily activities. You may even feel so exhausted that you can barely find the energy to get dressed in the morning. People with depression often feel so tired that they aren’t interested in doing any activity at all, even the smallest effort.

Often people with low energy and depression can also suffer from insomnia. Although insomnia is an inability to fall asleep and stay asleep, it also causes a feeling of constant tiredness and lack of energy. Depression affects both appetite and sleep. These are the two most important functions that generate and restore energy levels. Getting too little or too much sleep can ruin your energy levels. Treating your depression could help with your lack of energy. Treating an underlying medical condition that causes sleepiness and a lack of energy can improve your quality of life.