It is a known fact that depression is manifested by emotional symptoms and only few people know that this condition can also provoke rather serious and troublesome physical sings. In general medical practice over 50% of patients suffering from depression show certain physical symptoms. Such patients tend to focus their attention on physical complaints and may be unaware of their possible mental issues; they just do not lay adequate emphasis on the changes affecting their mental health. Besides, depression can go together with serious physical illnesses since it causes real changes in the body’s biochemical processes.
The most common physical signs of depression include:
- Digestive problems. Depression is often associated with functional disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. Patients may complain of abdominal pains, stomach heaviness, and altered sense of taste. Nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, or constipation – all these symptoms can be related to depression. Moreover, depression is often comorbid with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Weight gain or weight loss. Depression may affect hormones that control appetite – it may havoc the hormones that let us know when we are hungry and when we are full. Under the influence of depression people start eating either too much or too little.
- Sleep disturbances. In depression many people experience disturbed sleeping patterns – they either wake up very early, cannot fall asleep in the evening or vice versa they sleep more than usual and experience sleepiness during the whole day.
- Skin problems. According to researchers, skin symptoms of depression may include development of eczema. Eczema can result from severe neuropsychiatric trauma and prolonged excitement. This disorder may also lead to reduced temperature and pain sensitivity of the skin.
- Pain in the back, joints, muscles. Depression and pain share the same chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the brain therefore it may lead to various pain disorders. Studies show that people in depression are 3 times more likely to develop regular pain. Since pain and depression go hand in hand, sometimes pain relief can ease the symptoms of depression; some antidepressants may also have painkilling effect.
- Headaches. Depression not only causes headaches but also is rather common in people suffering from migraines. Like with any chronic pain the connection between migraine and depression can be described by the question – what comes first the egg or the chicken? However, headache should not be attributed only to depression; it can be a sign of some other very serious disorders and thus requires medical attention.
- Sexual dysfunctions. Depression has a negative impact on the sexual function of a person. The consequences of this mental disorder include reduced sex drive and problems with erection. Moreover, the consequences of prolonged depression or stress that preceded it may result in hormonal disorders leading to reproductive problems in males and females.
- Cardiovascular problems. Researches show that just like people with coronary artery disease are at increased risk of having depression, patients with depression are also at risk of developing coronary artery disease. Depression raises stress hormone levels, increases blood pressure, affects heart rhythm, and elevates the levels of cholesterol and insulin. A rapid heartbeat and chest pain may very well be the sings of depression.
Many people do not seek medical advice from a psychotherapist because they just do not know that these symptoms can be caused by depression and, sadly, not all healthcare providers can link such physical symptoms with depression.