Physical Symptoms of Depression

July 6, 2022
Physical symptoms of depression
Physical Symptoms of Depression

Even though depression is a mental condition, people can experience its physical signs too: for example, fatigue, headaches, pain, and sleep disorders. “Can depression cause physical pain?” is a question that raises the need for a deep understanding of the relationship between what the human brain feels and the body’s response. Unfortunately, many people don’t know that depression symptoms can manifest in the form of body aches.

In fact, research shows that depression starts in the brain but goes on to the body. Thus, different and often recurrent physical pain stems from untreated psychological distress. In this post, we’ll review the most common physical symptoms of depression and which issues may occur because of this illness.

Depression comes in many forms, and the mix of its symptoms may vary from one person to another. Only a professional can make a correct diagnosis.

What Are the Physical Symptoms of Depression?

The U.S has about 21 million adults experiencing major depressive episodes. Unfortunately, many of them tend to mistake body pain for physical illnesses rather than depression. Yet, mental problems can cause the body to suffer from one or more of the physical signs and symptoms of depression discussed below.


Fatigue is one of the most common physical depression symptoms and is arguably the most difficult to treat. It reduces energy levels, causes insomnia, and comes with other signs associated with depression, including irritability, lack of concentration, and apathy.

Patients with depression-related fatigue may feel tired even after resting or sleeping, and it drains their energy so much that people experience difficulties handling even simple everyday activities. Moreover, such fatigue lingers for some time even after the person starts an antidepressant treatment before noticing improvement.

Physical symptoms of anxiety and depression

Joint and Body Pain

Depression and anxiety often cause pain and aches in one’s back, limbs, hips, and neck. In extreme cases, the patient feels pain all over the body—an overwhelming and unbearable situation. Severe depression may also have a connection with joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and hinder their effective treatment.

Untreated depression makes patients more prone to recurrent pain. Also, depression and pain share chemical messengers in the brain. So, the longer the symptoms remain untreated, the worse the pain.


The relationship between headaches and depression is two-way and interchangeable. That’s because people with major depression are more prone to headaches that usually express themselves like a throbbing sensation around the eyebrows. On the other hand, it works in the opposite direction too: people with frequent migraines are more likely to develop depression.

Depression-induced headaches can be treated with painkillers, but they recur regularly. Chronic headache is a common physical symptom among people with major depressive disorder. Nonetheless, people do not always get depression headaches as the only symptom. Instead, other signs like sadness and fatigue accompany the headache.

Sleep Disorders

Some sleep disruptions stem from depression medications and certain symptoms of the condition. Depression-related sleep disorders could be in the form of insomnia or excessive sleep. Sometimes, people oversleep and want to stay in bed all day.

Yet, in other cases, depression manifests in a lack of sleep even when the patient tries to sleep. Also, the affected person could have a periodic sleep where they sleep and wake up so many times during the night. With disrupted sleep, one doesn’t reach all the sleep cycles necessary for enough rest and brain revitalization. As a result, they get low-quality sleep and unproductive days.

Insomnia can be a symptom of depression. Start your treatment early to achieve remission faster.

Digestive Complications

The human brain strongly connects to the digestive system, which is why stress and worry interfere with the gut. Likewise, depression-related emotions like stress, anxiety, and sadness overwhelm one’s digestive system and result in issues that include diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and indigestion.

Furthermore, the brain chemical serotonin regulates mood and also maintains digestion. Since depression interferes with serotonin, the person’s digestive system also faces irregularities. Failure to treat depression early causes such problems that worsen with time.

Weight Fluctuations

The physical symptoms of depression go beyond how the patient feels to how much they weigh. Most people respond to depression with increased food consumption or loss of appetite. Those people who are malnourished lose weight and suffer from nutritional deficiencies or lack of energy. On the flip side, people who overeat often gain considerable weight and may become obese.

The repercussions of weight changes often lead to a change in self-image that could worsen the depression. For example, obesity lowers self-esteem and increases anxiety in some patients who resort to stress eating. Besides, depression is linked to eating complications like anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Weak Immunity

The relationship between depression and the immune system is still under research. Nonetheless, scientists attribute the link to inflammation caused by chronic stress. The inflammatory response leads to an imbalance in the brain chemicals that regulate mood, which results in a lower immune function.

A weak immune system makes the patient’s body struggle to fight off diseases. As a result, they become more exposed to infections and take longer to heal when sickness strikes. Besides, the less severe illnesses that affect people with weak immunity give leeway to harder-to-treat diseases.

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Depression Chest Pain and Cardiovascular Problems

Research shows that depressed men and women are three times more likely to suffer chest pains than non-depressed people. Sometimes, depression chest pain may happen because the chest has complications. In other cases, it occurs due to underlying heart problems. The worse the depression, the more severe and frequent the chest pains.

Several cardiovascular problems often stem from high blood pressure. Depression, particularly chronic stress that goes on for a long time, increases the risk of hypertension. It, in turn, can lead to other cardiovascular conditions like strokes and heart attacks if not treated.


The ideal way for patients to treat physical symptoms of anxiety and depression is to manage the depression first. Otherwise, pains might go away but recur after some time. The problem could also worsen if a permanent solution is not found. Also, since the symptoms overlap with other conditions, people should always consult a medic for treatment.


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