For many, depression is a mental illness that only results in emotional pain. We have believed that this mental illness cannot manifest itself physically. However, research proves that those suffering from depression can exhibit physical signs. And this is something we don’t always discuss.
Depression occurs in episodes, and the symptoms may vary depending on the episode you are in. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the rare physical symptoms of depression while you’re still in the early stages. This will help you seek appropriate depression treatment as soon as possible.
We don’t usually recognize the physical symptoms of depression because we interpret and associate them with other conditions like somatic illness. Here are some of the major physical symptoms of depression to watch out for.
- Unexplained Pains and Aches
Has anyone complained to you of pain and aches all over their bodies without a clear cause? Apparently, they might be suffering from depression.
One study found that a depressed mind increases the perception of pain. This means an individual may feel pains and aches without any visible cause. Therefore, if you often feel your muscles aching when you’ve done nothing, you might be suffering from depression.
Although, you’ll need to visit a doctor to examine the pain and see if a cause can be identified. If not, the next step should be to a mental health professional. Some experts suggest using anti-depressants to relieve depression and to help combat the pain.
So, the next time you experience unexplained aches and pain, don’t give it a blind eye. It might be a sign of depression, and it will be better to take care of it in its early stages.
- Disturbed Sleep
According to CDC, a normal healthy adult should sleep for about 7 to 9 hours a day. The quantity and quality of sleep are essential for your physical and mental well-being. However, depression may reduce both the quality and quantity of your sleep, risking your health.
For instance, if you spend about an hour or more trying to find sleep at night, you might be suffering from depression. Usually, it should take you between 10 to 20 minutes to catch sleep. Anything longer than that is a cause for alarm. Although it’s normal for your sleep latency to fluctuate once or twice, if the pattern gets too long, you should seek medical help immediately.
Again, if you wake up very early in the morning, you might be suffering from depression. However, this doesn’t mean we should stay in our beds until late mornings. It’s understandable to wake up as from four in the morning onwards. However, if you don’t find sleep as early as two in the morning, it might be a symptom of depression.
Some victims of depression sleep for long hours to avoid the mental symptoms, which is also a sign of depression.
- Changes in Weight or Appetite
Some people eat more than their normal (“emotional eating”) to cope with depression. Others do not get the appetite to take foods as a result of their mental illness.
All the same, both are physical symptoms of depression.
Those who use food to cope up with depression end up with stomach aches and obesity-related illnesses. They gain more weight which affects their health in the long run.
Loss of appetite will result in reduced weight as the body will lack the necessary nutrients to grow. This may also result in a lack of energy.
If you don’t eat, your body won’t produce the energy required to conduct your daily activities. You’ll become weak, suffer from nutritional deficiencies, and eventually become ill. Also, your body will be susceptible to other illnesses because of the weak immune system.
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms
Frequent stomach problems may also be a symptom of depression. Some patients experience a sinking feeling in the stomach. Others experience bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.
Gastrointestinal symptoms and depression can be explained or associated with serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the gut and the brain.
This chemical helps regulate mood and also takes part in maintaining the body’s digestive function. The connection between the gut and the brain (which researchers are still working on) could help understand the relationship between depression and digestive health.
Adding to serotonin, the microbes in the gut may also be influencers of mood and immunity, all of which have connections to depressions.
In most instances, stomach pains that become worse when one is stressed are a sign of depression. This is mainly when gastrointestinal upsets occur without any physical cause.
However, not all gastrointestinal upsets are symptoms of depression. Some might be a result of food poisoning or gastrointestinal bacteria. To be sure about this, have your doctor examine your body for such symptoms.
How to Deal With Physical Symptoms of Depression
Depression, if left untreated, could affect ones’ life negatively. It’s essential to discover the symptoms in the early stages and get appropriate depression treatment right away.
The first thing to do is talk to your doctor or mental health professional. You want to be sure that the physical symptoms you’re experiencing are a sign of depression. The doctor/mental health professional will then examine the symptoms and recommend a suitable treatment.
There are many ways to treat depression. Doctors recommend anti-depressants to help deal with the physical symptoms of depression. However, anti-depressants do not work for every patient suffering from depression.
They also come with side effects that vary depending on the individual, the type of drug taken, among other things. Some people experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop the medication abruptly.
You can also take care of the physical symptoms of depression at home. For this, you’ll have to;
- Do regular physical exercises like running or walking
- Eat a balanced diet
- Deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and other activities that keep stress levels down
- Support from friends and family
- Join a support group
Although some of these activities may be challenging for depressed patients, they’ll help deal with the physical symptoms of depression.
Depression has long been perceived as an illness for the brain. It varies from mild to moderate to severe, and so do the symptoms. Aside from the common psychological signs like sadness and increased suicidal thoughts, depression can also manifest through physical gestures.
They include unexplained head and stomach aches, increased or reduced quantity of sleep, and changes in weight or appetite. If you experience such physical signs, it might be time to check in with your doctor or mental health professional for depression treatment.