- Many people now understand the mood and behavioral symptoms of depression, but the physical symptoms still go widely unrecognized.
- Physical symptoms include fatigue; aches and pains; changes in appetite, weight, and energy; and general discomfort.
- These physical symptoms (in addition to the mental and emotional struggles) can make it hard to do much of anything—but it’s important you find the motivation and energy to take care of yourself the best you can.
- A few tips for doing so include prioritizing your sleep, employing practices for stress relief, and maintaining a healthy diet.
- Additionally, exercising and spending time outside in the sun can bring remarkable benefits and lessen the impact of those harmful depressive symptoms.
Intense feelings of despair. Anxiety. Hopelessness, Loss of interest. Mood swings. Irritability Social isolation. What do all of these things have in common? They’re symptoms of depression, as well as diagnostic criteria for the condition. Additionally, they’re widely understood and recognized as indicators of depression. But what about the lesser known physical symptoms?
Depression: Not Just Mental, But Physical
While depression is classified as a mental illness, those with the condition often suffer physically as well. “Usually, we don’t tend to think of depression as a disorder which causes physical pain, but there is no denying that some people who suffer from depression are feeling pain and discomfort on a physical level,” Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert, explains. “Sometimes, a person (or physician, for that matter) will misinterpret physical symptoms as being standalone and not attribute them to a mental condition.”
For this very reason, it’s important to understand the physical symptoms of depression. So, what are they? “Depressed individuals report fatigue, almost flu-like pains and aches (head, back, neck), and even stomach pains,” Backe explains. “This last one makes a lot of sense, since the body’s center of energy is the stomach. When a person is not in balance, mentally, the stomach is one of the first organs to physically respond. This can be manifested through pains, digestive issues, lack of appetite, and general discomfort in the abdomen.”
How to Manage: 5 Tips
When we’re exhausted, uncomfortable, or in pure physical pain, we don’t want to do anything. We don’t want to get out of bed, we don’t want to leave the house, we don’t want to be bothered. That said, a major key to overcoming or managing your depression is engaging in self-care and expending a little energy to stay on top of your health. Here are a few tips for doing so:
1) Prioritize your sleep. If you’re depressed, you might have a difficult time falling or staying asleep—but the good news is that you can make a few changes to improve your sleep quality. Try following a set sleep routine each night, practice relaxation techniques before bedtime, and only get into bed when you’re ready to sleep.
2) Find means for stress relief. Stress can worsen or even trigger depressive episodes, which makes self-care and stress-relieving techniques important. A few practices which have shown to reduce stress and relieve symptoms of depression include meditation, yoga, and journaling. Find an activity you enjoy and incorporate it into your everyday!
3) Stay on top of your diet. Our diet can also have a significant impact on our mental health. To boost your mood and keep your mind right, you should reduce your intake of certain foods such as those with high amounts of chemicals, preservatives, sugar, and carbs. Base your diet around natural foods like fruits and vegetables instead.
4) Find a form of exercise you enjoy. I know, exercising is probably the last thing you want to do. But if you can work up the motivation to go for a run around the block, make it to that cycling class, or even just do some yoga in your living room, you’ll experience a boost in your mood and your energy. Not to mention that exercising during the day can help you sleep better at night.
5) Spend time under the sun. Finally, spend as much time as you can under the sun. Sunlight will help to improve your mood by increasing your serotonin levels. So, whenever you can, get outside and experience these benefits. Take your pup on a walk, read a book at the park, start gardening—whatever it is you enjoy!