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The Physical Symptoms of Depression

The Physical Symptoms of Depression

Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed psychological disorders with several millions of people affected by it every year.

Onset can occur at any age, and while common amongst both genders, females are more likely to experience a depressive episode than males.

The physical symptoms of depression can last from between two weeks to several years, but most never seek treatment despite its negative impact on quality of life. Furthermore, depression is often found to co-occur with other disorders such as anxiety and substance abuse. While it is normal to feel sad on occasion, especially in response to loss or difficult life events, depressive illnesses cause significant deficits in social, occupational, or other important areas of living.

Depression is frequently associated with symptoms such as persistent feelings of sadness, a sense of hopelessness, or a loss of interest in activities that one would otherwise enjoy. Other psychological symptoms often reported are feelings of emptiness, an increase in anxiety, or thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

While the physical symptoms of depression are just as likely to be experienced by those with depressive illnesses, they are often overlooked or not believed to be associated with the depression itself. This is especially true if the majority of symptoms experienced are physiological.

Sufferers may experience the following physical symptoms of depression:

  • A significant decrease in energy or fatigue throughout the day despite no increase in activity.
  • Affected sleep patterns, causing insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or a significant increase in sleep.
  • Changes in appetite, either eating more or less than usual, which can contribute to weight gain or loss if left untreated.
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems

Other physical ailments may also develop as a result of depression. These symptoms often do not subside with typical treatments alone, but only after the depression has been addressed.

When considering whether you or a loved one may be experiencing depressive illness, it is important to pay attention to both the psychological and physiological symptoms being experienced. Depression is often portrayed as causing frequent bouts of sadness, but this may not always be the case.

Sufferers may not report feelings of sadness, but instead no longer finding pleasure in things that once brought them joy. They may begin to withdraw from friends and family or put less effort into school or work.

Significant life events such as the loss of a job or a loved one, recently giving birth, or a traumatic experience can potentially trigger the onset of depression, so these factors should be taken into consideration as well. Fortunately, for those who seek treatment, there are highly effective ways to approach combating depressive symptoms through psychotherapy, medication, or both.

Shannon Klass
Widener University Doctoral Trainee at Fairmount Behavioral Health Systems

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