When we talk about mental illnesses like depression, we often tend to neglect that though these are the problems that primarily affect a person’s psychological well-being, they can also experience physical pain due to these mental health issues.
While people with depression can get a feeling of sadness, hopelessness, which causes emotional pain, research shows that sometimes depression can take the form of physical pain. In some cultures, they don’t consider depression a real illness, especially those who believe it is taboo to talk about mental health. For instance, Koreans and Chinese regard this mental illness as a myth, so the patients who suffer from usually get treatment only for the physical signs of mental distress.
Knowing about these physical symptoms is also as much necessary as the psychological effects. It provides a great way to keep in check the body and the mind. You can also use these symptoms to measure your depression and know when a depressive period begins. Physical symptoms can also demonstrate that depression is, in fact, a real disorder and can influence a person’s well-being.
The following are the common physical symptoms that usually accompany depression:
Problems like diarrhea, constipation can be very excruciating and uncomfortable to talk about with someone. These physical conditions are embarrassing for most people and cause immense pain. You might usually experience these issues when you get food poisoning or gastrointestinal viruses. Typically, people assume that digestive problems they encounter are from a physical illness, but studies show the link between emotional disturbance and digestive issues.
Extreme emotions like sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, etc. can overwhelm the brain and disrupt the digestive tracks. A study conducted in 2011 shows indicated a link between depression, anxiety, and gastrointestinal problems.
The feeling of uneasiness you get is among the most recognizable signs of depression. Usually, people attribute stomach cramps and pain to gas or menstrual pain, but discomfort caused by depression is different than those, as it worsens with the increase in mental stress.
Research conducted by Havard Medical School suggests that abdominal discomforts like nausea, bloating, and cramps can be a sign of mental health deterioration. The same researchers stated that depression could result in an inflamed digestive system and cause pain that people may mistake for other illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome. The connection between stomach and depression (mental health) can work in the opposite direction as well. Scientists and doctors often refer to the gut as the second brain because they have found a link between mental well-being and gut health.
The stomachs are full of good bacteria that help keep them healthy. An imbalance of good bacteria can give rise to the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Eating a healthy and balanced diet can be the key to keeping the gut healthy and enhancing mood. But, the conclusion of this study requires more and thorough research to be of any use.
Eye or Vision Problems
People with depression often find the world looks to them when they are under severe stress. While people with depression can experience the world becoming gray and bleak, a study from Germany conducted in 2020 suggests that this effect of depression can cause actual damage to a person’s eyesight.
The study included 80 individuals, and those with depression reported difficulty seeing differences in black and white. This phenomenon is known as contrast perception, which might shed light on why depression can cause a person to experience that world is going hazy around them.
Everyone experiences a headache once in a while. It is so common to have a headache that usually we don’t even think much about and dismiss it as something that happens. The headaches are nothing serious if not lasting for a prolonged time. Several stressful situations can trigger a headache, but these are occasional. If you start to experience regular headaches that are not induced by any apparent stressful situation, it could be a depression symptom. While headaches caused by both depression and migraine can last for extended periods, the primary difference between the two is, depression headaches don’t usually impair your functioning like the migraine dose.
The National Headache Foundation describes the pain caused by depression as a “tension headache,” it may feel like a mild throbbing sensation around the eyebrows. Though you can get relief from these headaches by taking over-the-counter medications, they generally re-occur regularly. The chronic “tension headaches” often indicate a major depressive disorder. However, these headaches are not the only signal of psychological pain. Depressed people often encounter addiction signs of mental illness like sadness, decreased energy, and sadness.
Back Pain And Muscle Aches
People may feel fine when they wake up, but they start to experience pain in their back or muscles as the day progresses. Usually, the problem hits when they sit at work or school desks, and their muscles begin to hurt. Though these aches typically occur due to bad posture or injuries, they can also be psychological distress. A study from 2017 involving 1013 Canadian university students found a direct link between depression and backaches. Psychiatrists and psychologists have long opinionated about the connection between emotional issues and chronic pains and aches, but the specific mechanism that binds the two is still mostly unknown.
Only more research into the topic can reveal the connection between depression and the inflammatory response of the body. The latest studies indicate that body inflammation might have something to do with the brain’s neurocircuits. The researchers believe that inflammation may disrupt brain signals and play a role in how depression affects a person and how they can treat it.
Decreased Pain Tolerance
People with depression often feel that their nerves are on fire, but they couldn’t find any physical reason for their pain. New studies suggest that the nerves’ burning sensation can result from depression, lowering pain tolerance. A 2015 study shows a correlation between those who are depressed and have lower pain tolerance. Another research from 2010 indicates that people with depression are significantly more impacted by pain than people who don’t have depression.
While there is no good or defined cause and effect relationship between depression and lower pain tolerance, it is an exciting thing to evaluate, given the data pointing towards a correlation between the two. Due to the supposed link between depression and pain tolerance, some researchers propose to use anti-depressants as pain management medication to combat chronic pain.
Fatigue or Lower Energy Levels
Fatigue can be another common sign of depression. Occasionally everyone experiences lower energy levels and can feel tired in the morning, making them want to stay in bed longer and avoid going to work. While we consider stress to be the reason behind exhaustion, depression can also cause tiredness. Unlike the usual fatigue, depression-induced tiredness can also result in concentration problems and feelings of apathy or irritability. Experts suggest that people with depression often get nonrestorative sleep, which means they feel tired even after having a good night’s rest. However, many other diseases or viral infections can also cause fatigue, making it difficult to distinguish whether the tiredness is related to depression. You might tell apart the depression-induced fatigue from other tirednesses by observing if other common depression symptoms like sadness, hopelessness, and lack of pleasure, are also present.
Importance of Pain
The presence of pain in your body and other depression symptoms can be your mind’s way of telling you that it may be the time to seek professional health. Suppose you are uncomfortable identifying and talking about these emotions, such as sadness or anger. In that case, your brain could cause these feelings to show up differently, one of which is physical pain. If you find yourself experiencing these physical symptoms for an extended period, make sure to visit your primary health care provider and talk to them. American Psychological Association states that depression is among the most common mental health issues, affecting nearly 14.8 milling adults in the USA each year.
Various symptoms can cause depression; these include genetics, exposure to stress, childhood trauma, or brain chemistry. Always remember, it is a manageable condition if you seek professional help. Psychotherapy and medication can help a person with depression to make a full recovery. So, if your depression problem is causing you emotional and physical pain, don’t ignore it. If you think the signs of discomfort are more than surface level, request your doctor for depression or anxiety screening, and get the appropriate treatment.