Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. While we don’t often consider depression as physical pain, some cultures do, especially those where it’s “taboo” to openly talk about mental health.
For example, in Chinese and Korean cultures, depression is considered a myth. So patients, unversed that physical pain may be a sign of psychological distress, visit physicians to treat their physical symptoms instead of considering it as depression.
Keeping these physical symptoms in mind is just as important as the emotional effects. Physical symptoms can act as a hint when a depressive period is about to begin. It is a sign of caution that you may be experiencing depression. It can be very detrimental to our overall well-being.
Here are seven of the most common physical symptoms of depression:
1. Fatigue or consistent lower energy levels
Fatigue is a common symptom of depression. Sometimes we all experience lower energy levels and even feel sluggish in the morning, hoping to stay in bed and watch TV instead of going to work.
It is often believed that exhaustion is sourced from stress, depression can also cause fatigue. However, depression-related fatigue can also cause concentration problems, feelings of irritability, and apathy.
2. Decreased pain tolerance
A 2015 study revealed a correlation between people who are depressed and decreased pain tolerance, while another study in 2010 showed that pain has a greater impact on people who are depressed. These two symptoms don’t have clear cause-and-effect relationship, but it’s important to evaluate them together.
3. Back pain or aching muscles all over
When you’re at work or sitting at a school desk, your back starts to hurt, but ironically you felt okay in morning. It could be stress, or it could be depression. Although they’re often associated with bad posture or injuries, backaches can also be a symptom of psychological distress.
Almost everyone experiences occasional headaches. They’re so common that we often write them off as nothing serious. Stressful work situations, like conflict with a co-worker, can even trigger these headaches.
Unlike unbearable migraine headaches, depression-related headaches don’t necessarily impair one’s functioning. Described by the National Headache Foundation as “tension headaches,” this type of head pain may feel like a mild throbbing sensation, especially around the eyebrows.
5. Eye problems or blurred vision
While depression may be a reason for the world to look grey and bleak, one 2010 research study in Germany suggests that this mental health concern may actually affect one’s eyesight.
6. Stomach pain or troubled abdomen
That uneasiness in your stomach is one of the most recognizable signs of depression. However, when your abdomen starts to cramp, it’s easy to write it off as gas or menstrual pain.
Pain that worsens, especially when stress arises, may be a sign of depression. In fact, Harvard Medical School researchers suggest that stomach discomfort like cramps, bloating, and nausea may be a sign of poor mental health.
According to those Harvard researchers, depression can cause (or be a result of) an inflamed digestive system, with pain that’s easily mistaken for other illnesses.
7. Digestive problems
Digestive problems, like constipation and diarrhea can often feel uncomfortable and excruciating. Often caused by food poisoning or gastrointestinal viruses, it’s easy to assume that gut discomfort stems from a physical illness.
But emotions like sadness, anxiety, and overwhelm can disrupt our digestive tracks. One 2011 study
Pain is another way your brain communicates your mental health. If you feel issues in identifying and talking about distressing emotions, like sadness, anger, and shame, this could cause feelings to manifest differently in the body.
If you’re experiencing any of these physical symptoms for a prolonged period of time, make an appointment with your primary care doctor or nurse practitioner.