The less-known physical signs of depression
Millions of Americans struggle with depression in a given year. And while most are familiar with common symptoms like change in appetite, fatigue, persistent sadness, inability to concentrate and loss of interest in activities, there are also many less-known physical symptoms.
Tight muscles, headaches and even just body soreness are familiar signs, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
“The body is a complex organism with many systems that are affected by neurotransmitters and hormones,” says Dr. Sarah Katula, an advanced practice nurse in psychiatry at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “The neurotransmitters and hormones are affected by what we eat, how we sleep, how we play (exercise) and how we think (stressful, negative thoughts). When any of these are out of balance, the whole organism (the person) can struggle.”
For instance, if you eat too much sugar, processed foods – and for some people, dairy, gluten or other possible allergens – you affect your hormones, your microbiome and then your neurotransmitters, Katula explains.
“It’s complicated, but we should be thinking that our gut is connected to our brain. And we should be thinking that to be ‘fine-tuned’, we need to eat foods that are good for us, sleep seven to eight hours a night and exercise regularly,” she says.
In the same way our diet affects our brain, our brain also affects our body. Depression and chronic pain are often found together, and each can often lead to the other. Common symptoms of chronic pain that can result from depression include headaches, joint pain, muscle pain and even stomach issues, says Katula. Beyond those physical symptoms, some people with anxiety and depressive disorders also experience a chronic pain disease like arthritis or fibromyalgia, says the ADAA.
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