Even though depression is categorized as a mental health disorder, it can impact far more than your mind. From muscle aches to a low libido, depression can lead you to suffer from a host of physical symptoms that you might not have imagined associated with your mental health. Since many of these symptoms are related to physical disorders, they can also be difficult to detect by professionals and can be inadvertently attributed to disorders other than depression.
Here are some physical symptoms related to depression that you are likely to suffer from.
1. You eat more than usual … or hardly eat anything
One of the physical symptoms clinicians look out for when diagnosed with depression is a change in appetite or weight, explains Seattle-based clinical psychologist Carly Claney. “One of the hallmarks of a major episode of depression is a significant change in weight and change in appetite. Depression is associated with changes in hormones such as cortisol and serotonin, which trigger the fight or flight response. These hormones can increase the effect of ‘eating your emotions’ or reducing appetite, as a way for the body to regulate stress, ”Carly Claney told INSIDER.
Our appetite is closely linked to our mental health, so some people may be likely to eat more in order to calm their emotions while others will be disgusted by food. “If eating was a fun activity [before the onset of depression], a person with depression might limit that activity,” says Madeline William, psychologist treating patients via telehealth application, LiveHealth Online. “At the same time, if eating is a way to calm or stifle their emotions, these people could abuse the food.”
2. As a result of these changes in mood and appetite, digestive problems could appear.
“Depression changes the way the mind and body respond to stress, which could lead to a suppression of the activity of some important systems in our body, including how the body processes food,” explained Madeline William. Sudden changes in diet, like eating too much or too little, or also changing the type of food you normally eat “can lead to digestive problems such as nausea, constipation, and diarrhea,” says Jennifer J. Marks-Foster, clinical psychologist based in St. Louis.
3. You tend to sleep more, or less than usual
“Lack of sleep or on the contrary the increase in the hours of sleep can be linked to depression”, explained Madeline William. “Lack of sleep can be dangerous, as it leads to other health problems involving blood pressure, weight gain, metabolism, judgment and perception.”
“Sleep disruption is not just a lack of sleep,” adds Jennifer J. Marks-Foster. “A lot of people suffer from hypersomnia , ie from sleeping too much, or from sleep maintenance disorder.
4. You might also feel tired or even exhausted
Naturally, if you suffer from insomnia due to your depression, you are going to feel the effects of disturbed sleep throughout the day. “The experience of fatigue in depression is very common and could be caused by problems with sleep, diet, stress or medication,” Carly Claney told INSIDER. “Depression is often linked to variations in dopamine and serotonin, which are themselves directly linked to a person’s mood and energy level.”
“It is also likely that a depressed person carries a very heavy psychological burden on their shoulders which is emotionally and mentally taxing. This emotional burden can also be felt physically,” she added.
5. Restlessness is another common symptom of depression
“For some, depression can include worries, doubts, a feeling of worthlessness or general negativity,” illustrated Madeline William. These thoughts are alarming and cause or trigger activity in our body and mind, which is normally inhibited when we relax, rest or sleep. This can cause a feeling of restlessness and a feeling of tiredness or exhaustion.
6. Chronic pain in joints and muscles may be linked to depression
Depression can be painful in a physical way, and if you suffer from chronic pain you may not realize that it is related to your mental health, explains Jephtha Tausig, clinical psychologist. “Very often, some unexplained pain and suffering is very real – it is not imagined or faked. But if there is no other explanation for these symptoms, it could be a way for the body to express ill-being of the mind, such as depression, anxiety, or other anxieties, ”Jephtha Tausig told INSIDER.
Infographic created by MD Infusions, a provider of ketamine treatment for mood disorders