Depression symptoms include feeling sad or hopeless. There can be physical symptoms of depression along with emotional ones — and they can be debilitating.
Depression can interfere with your ability to function your best at work, detract from your quality of life, and sometimes harm personal relationships. But no matter how much you or your family want you to “snap out of it,” depression is more complicated than feeling sad or being in a chronic bad mood.
The truth is, clinical depression is a real medical illness that involves the brain. And it can affect your body, as well as your emotions, in many ways.
About 16 million adults in the U.S. suffer from depression every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The good news is depression can be successfully treated with either therapy, medication, or both.
But to recognize that you or someone you care about needs help, it’s important to understand the signs of the condition, including the physical symptoms of depression.
Signs and symptoms of depression
While not everyone with depression has the same symptoms, the National Institute of Mental Health notes signs of depression affecting emotions and mood most often include feeling chronically sad or anxious and pessimistic. People suffering depression symptoms often feel hopeless and helpless too, and they may even have thoughts of suicide.
However, the many ways depression can show up in body-wide problems may be overlooked or assumed to be caused by other health conditions.
Physical symptoms of depression include:
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling you no longer have a normal amount of energy for daily activities
- Profound fatigue with no obvious reason
- Cognitive changes, including an inability to concentrate and memory problems
- Moving or talking more slowly than a person would normally move and speak
- Chronic headaches with no clear explanation
- Digestive problems, despite no physical cause being found
- Having difficulty sitting still and needing to move around restlessly
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or having great difficulty waking up (resulting in oversleeping)
- Appetite changes — either no appetite or over-eating
- Losing or gaining weight without trying, with no medical explanation
Physical symptoms of depression in children
The CDC points out children and teens can suffer from depression, and their physical depression symptoms can be misconstrued as laziness or even a learning problem.
In addition to feeling sad, hopeless, and often irritable, depressed youngsters may seem either sluggish or tense and restless. They may also have changes in their regular sleep patterns, sleeping far more or less than they did in the past.
Like depressed adults, kids with depression can experience a loss of appetite or have an unexplained increase in the amount of food they eat. Teachers may report children and teens do not seem to be remembering or concentrating normally, either.
Depression in children is often accompanied by anxiety, which can produce additional physical symptoms — including unexplained dizziness and stomach aches.
What to do about physical symptoms of depression
Of course, if you or your children have physical symptoms that are unexplained — even if there are other clear symptoms of depression — it’s crucial to see a doctor.
Sometimes, depression may be the result of a medical condition that needs diagnosis and treatment, according to the American Psychiatric Association. For example, thyroid problems, brain tumors, or certain vitamin deficiencies can mimic symptoms of depression, so it’s important to rule out these health concerns.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with a serious illness such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease, the National Institute of Health explains untreated depression can make these conditions worse — and vice versa.
What’s more, prescription drugs taken for these medical conditions sometimes cause side effects that contribute to depression. However, a doctor experienced in treating these illnesses can work with you to find the best treatment strategy for your depression and other health problems.
If a check-up confirms your physical symptoms are connected to depression, work with your doctor to find the right therapy and/or medication and lifestyle changes to put you on the road to recovery.
August 15, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN