It's More Than Just Your Brain — These Are the Physical Symptoms of Depression
People may be familiar with the mental symptoms of depression: feeling sad, helpless, hopeless, and worthless, among others. Often, these symptoms last for weeks or months (or longer), and can be debilitating. People tend to isolate themselves and have a tough time leaving the house, let alone performing basic hygiene like brushing their teeth or taking a shower.
As if the mental challenges of depression weren't difficult enough, it's compounded by the fact that mental illness can manifest itself physically. "Physical symptoms [of depression] are often overlooked by many or attributed to something other than depression," psychiatrist Neelima Kunam, MD, told POPSUGAR.
The Different Types of Depression
Two of the most common forms of depression are major depression, in which someone has symptoms most of the day nearly every day for at least two weeks and it interferes with your life, such as impacting your ability to work or go to school. The other form of depression is persistent depressive disorder, or dysthymia. In dysthymia, a person has symptoms for at least two years, but the person may fluctuate between less severe symptoms of depression along with major depressive episodes.
Mental Symptoms of Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some symptoms of depression include a persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood; feelings of hopelessness or pessimism; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness; loss of interest or pleasure in activities a person once enjoyed; difficulty concentrating or remembering; and thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.
Physical Symptoms of Depression
Beyond how a person feels mentally, some common physical symptoms are prevalent with depression, including significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, explained Dr. Kunam; an unintentional change of more than five percent bodyweight in a month is a red flag. This is associated with appetite changes nearly every day (an increased or decreased desire to eat). Other physical symptoms include feeling restless, fidgety, or jumpy; on the flip side, people may feel fatigued or have a loss of energy nearly every day.
Some people with depression also experience a disturbance in sleep, so that could mean an inability to fall asleep and a lack of sleep, or oversleeping nearly every day. Even if people get more than eight or nine hours of sleep a night, they still might feel fatigued throughout the day. "These symptoms can look like laziness or immaturity, but if you dig deeper it's more than a choice to be inactive or avoiding responsibilities," Dr. Kunam said.
There are other physical manifestations of depression that people may confuse with chronic pain. Psychiatrist Alex Dimitriu, MD, said that the lack of sleep and overall fatigue associated with depression can make bodily aches and pains feel worse. "There is some evidence that depression may also be a state of heightened inflammation, which may support why the body hurts more," he told POPSUGAR. He added that's why many people who have depression describe themselves as feeling "sick and tired" more often than not.
If you are experiencing any of the physical or mental symptoms of depression, visit your primary care physician or a mental health professional for a proper evaluation. Treatment is available and it's possible to live a happy, productive life with depression.
If you are feeling anxious or depressed and need help finding help or resources, call the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (1-240-485-1001) or the National Alliance on Mental Illness (1-800-950-6264). You can also text "NAMI" to 741741 or email email@example.com