If you think depression is all in your head, you’d be mistaken. Not only is this a legitimate mental health issue with physiological roots, but also, the dangerous effects depression has affects the body.
If you’re having trouble linking a depressed mood to physical symptoms, think for a moment about anxiety. When you’re feeling anxious, do you notice any physical symptoms?
Most people experience a visible racing of the heart, rapid breathing, and nausea. You may experience some or all of these symptoms, and then some more. And if you’ve ever had a full-on panic attack, you know how anxiety can affect your physical self.
But we tend to think of depression in a different category. Most of us think we know what depression looks and feels like, and we don’t often associate physical symptoms to the condition.
In truth, there are many dangerous effects depression has on your body and overall wellbeing.
The following are some of the physical symptoms of depression to look out for.
A scientific review of 15 studies published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that people who were obese were at a greater risk of developing depression. And interestingly enough, they found that the reverse is also true. People with depression are more likely to become obese.
But obesity isn’t the only weight-related issue associated with depression. When someone is depressed, they may have a tendency to overeat or under-eat, which could result in weight loss. If someone you love experiences extreme fluctuations in either direction, it may be a sign or symptom of depression.
Increased pain sensitivity
Increased pain sensitivity is a symptom that’s related to depression, but in an indirect sort of way. Actually, many people who suffer from insomnia also experience increased pain sensitivity. And since 80 percent of people who are depressed also have insomnia, many people with depression also experience increased pain sensitivity. This is an interesting correlation for many because they are experiencing intense emotional symptoms along with heightened physical pain.
When someone is depressed, they probably aren’t sleeping well. This can lead to fatigue, but also a lack of motivation can also feel like fatigue. It’s common for people with depression to feel like they’re tired all the time and can’t muster the strength for basic tasks. This shouldn’t be confused with chronic fatigue syndrome, but there is some overlap. People who have chronic fatigue syndrome may become depressed, and depression can worsen the symptoms of chronic fatigue. Depression does not, however, cause chronic fatigue syndrome.
Insomnia is so closely related to depression that it’s often considered a hallmark symptom. That is, most people who suffer from depression also have insomnia. In fact, 80 percent of people with depression suffer from some form of insomnia. Interestingly, another 15 percent of people with depression sleep excessively. So, if you’re suffering from depression, there’s only a 5 percent chance that you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.
It may seem like a cut and dry case, but the relationship between insomnia and depression is a bit more complicated. You see, sometimes insomnia is a symptom of depression, and sometimes it’s the other way around.
Weakened immune system
Possibly the most dangerous of all physical symptoms of depression is a weakened immune system. The body’s immune system helps fight disease and keep us healthy, which means someone with depression and a weakened immune system may also be likely to fall ill.
Many of the physical changes in depression, especially insomnia, play a role in weakening the immune system. This can lead to a vicious cycle where depression causes or worsens physical symptoms, and the illness worsens symptoms of depression. The sicker you get, the easier it is for depression to take hold.
If you’re suffering from depression, you may also experience some physical symptoms that have the potential to worsen your depression. It all seems like a vicious cycle, but have to hope.
If you believe a physical symptom is at the root of your depression, start by addressing the problematic symptom. If you’re dealing with chronic pain, for example, see if you can solve the root cause of your pain. When you’re living with less physical pain, it may be easier to find hope and overcome your depression.
On the other hand, if you think depression is causing your physical symptoms, seek treatment for your depression from a qualified medical professional. If you can address the root of your depression, your physical symptoms may naturally subside over time.