Depression is an issue that we are all too familiar with and hear about often in our culture. Recent studies suggest that nearly one tenth of the U.S. population has suffered from depression at one point in their lifetime. It is a pervasive issue, and so the primary symptoms of depression are known by most of us. We have a basic understanding that feeling sad, blue, hopeless, and unmotivated for a long period of time are some of the psychological signs of depression. While it can be helpful to be aware of mood and energy level changes as indicators of depression, there are also a number of physical symptoms that can occur with depression. In fact, at times these physical problems can be mistaken for something else, when depression is actually the culprit.

Our bodies do a great job of telling us how we are feeling inside. Here are just a few ways your body may be telling you that you are depressed.

  1. More frequent, more intense headaches. Headaches and migraines can begin or become worse when you are in a depressed state. Take note of any changes here, as it might indicate a deeper issue.
  2. Sleep disturbance. Sleeping more, waking often during the night, or experiencing insomnia are all common features of depression. Furthermore, feeling fatigued or exhausted may be clues that your mood and energy level have dipped in a way consistent with depression.
  3. Digestive problems. If you find that you are having stomach pain, nausea, heartburn, or significant changes in digestion, it may be a sign of depression. Similarly, major shifts in your appetite or weight (either significant weight loss or gain) may be a feature of a deeper psychological issue like depression.
  4. Body aches and pains. Our bodies often hold the emotional stress and tension we feel on the inside. When you notice, for example, more back pain or muscle soreness or tightness without any other changes in your lifestyle or exercise regimen, it may be that your body is manifesting your emotional distress.
  5. Shortness of breath or rapid heart rate. Your first line of defense if you experience chest pain, breathing difficulty, or rapid heart rate should always include the advice of a medical expert to rule out heart, lung, or stomach problems. Depression, however, can contribute to these problems, and may even be an indicator of panic attacks.

Author: Rachel Goldsmith, MA, MSMFT