A queasy belly, headaches, muscle pain – before you reach for ibuprofen or aspirin, pause and think – it could be your body’s reaction to depression, stress, or anxiety. People with undiagnosed mental health conditions live with chronic pain, chest pain, muscle soreness, and other physical symptoms of anxiety. An estimated 21 million people in the United States and 10 million people in the UK suffer from these conditions. That’s why it is important to be aware of how emotionally taxing mental health issues can be and that the emotional symptoms of depression, such as feeling anxious, nervous, worried, sad, and numb, can wreak havoc on our well-being.
Yes, these issues aren’t just a figment of your imagination – depression is a prevalent mental illness and often develops alongside anxiety. Moreover, it changes the body leading to problems like slower digestion, stomach aches, headaches, etc. In fact, the physical symptoms of depression could be due to poor mental health. This is made evident by the fact that having trouble sleeping or staying asleep is one of the most common indicators of depression and anxiety. If you are among them and need help with the physical symptoms of depression along with how to ease physical symptoms of anxiety, you are at the right place.
It is sad that these conditions are often mistaken for other health issues and left untreated. We also fail at recognizing and realizing that physical problems might be related to mental illnesses – what’s more, many care providers miss them too. A telltale symptom of depression and anxiety is emotional distress, where you constantly feel afraid or nervous about daily life activities. With depression, it becomes difficult to live ‘normally’ and respond/react to everyday occurrences appropriately.
Depression and anxiety can be mild or severe and short-lived or long-lasting. Some people experience debilitating symptoms for short intervals, while others fight their demons daily. Do your legs or hands become shaky when you feel anxious? Does your heart rate speed up and you feel sick to your stomach when things don’t seem to be going your way? We often link these physical symptoms of anxiety with tension and nerves. While everyone feels anxious at some point in life, it can turn into a severe disorder when it lasts for a longer duration. Common symptoms of anxiety and depression include panic disorders, social anxiety, phobias, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder).
Wondering what the physical symptoms of depression and anxiety are? We have got you covered. Here are the telltale signs of these issues:
1. Sleep Disorders
The most common physical symptom of anxiety is irregular sleep patterns. Individuals diagnosed with anxiety and depression may experience insomnia or hypersomnia. Unfortunately, sleep and depression go hand in hand, and depression patients find it hard to fall or remain asleep. Inadequate rest leads to a disrupted lifestyle and failure to meet daily duties and tasks.
Insomnia and hypersomnia affect individuals in different ways. Disrupted sleeping patterns lead you to experience tiredness throughout the day, adversely impacting your emotions, work, and quality of life. Moreover, studies show that individuals with insomnia have a higher risk of developing physical illnesses than people getting a good night’s sleep.
Depression and anxiety can slow down your whole system, which is exactly why people with depression usually speak or move slower. Feeling lethargic is another common physical symptom of depression. 75% of depression patients also suffer from insomnia, according to research in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience.
The polyvagal theory claims that depression is a part of the human body’s biological structure. According to this theory, depression and anxiety are your body’s way of physiologically responding to threats or dangers. It is a survival mechanism that results in the shutting down of bodily functions, such as lower energy levels, increased blood pressure, and feeling stressed and paranoid.
Moreover, depression may affect you in a continuous cycle, impacting your sleep and resulting in slower movements and fatigue.
3. Muscle Soreness, Tension, & Aches
It is common for the mental health conditions like depression and anxiety to impact muscle health and cause inflammation. Researchers have highlighted that pain mediators produced in the body in response to muscle pain or inflammation, in fact, induce the physical symptom of anxiety.
According to the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, people with depression tend to have a lower tolerance for pain. It is the reason muscle tension is associated with anxiety or ‘panic’ attacks.
Another study by brain SPECT imaging states that people having chronic muscle pain experience increased activity in the thalamus, an area of the brain that is responsible for emotional behaviors.
4. Nausea, Stomach Ache, & Other Digestive Distress
Stomach cramps, constipation, nauseous, or diarrhea are often associated with depression and anxiety. One study showed that individuals diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are at a higher risk of experiencing the physical symptoms of depression and anxiety. Another study found that mental disorders like anxiety and depression are common among people with chronic constipation.
5. Chest Pain
Chest pain can be a sign of lung, stomach, or heart illnesses, but it could also indicate an underlying mental health condition. Moreover, depression, stress, and anxiety increase the risk of heart problems – a common cause of chest pain.
During a panic attack, you may experience a fluttering or racing heartbeat and tightness in your chest, but it subsides as the body exits the ‘panic mode’. Research establishes that individuals experiencing cardiovascular illness are more likely to suffer from depression.
6. Aching Joints
The initial physical symptoms of depression are vague aches and joint pain, and millions of individuals seek medical attention to treat them.
The relationship between depression and physical symptoms of anxiety is, in fact, bi-directional, which means that mental illnesses may cause joint and muscle pain or worsen them.
7. Digestive Problems
Emotional stress and depression often cause bowel issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The physical symptoms of depression associated with digestive health include appetite fluctuations, nausea, diarrhea, and cramps.
Yes, psychological illnesses such as depression and anxiety may cause lightheadedness and dizziness. However, it is not common, and researches show that 20% of individuals reporting dizziness suffer from anxiety and depression.
Is anxiety disrupting your lifestyle and impacting your quality of life? If yes, seek medical care for how to ease physical symptoms of anxiety.
You may not realize, but the recurrence of aches, digestive issues, and fatigue are often related to mental health illnesses. It is an instinctive response to seek medical attention, and patients make every effort to treat the physical symptoms without considering the possibility that they could be due to underlying and prevalent anxiety or depression.
Hence, getting to the root of the problem is critical to learn how to ease the physical symptoms of anxiety. After all, treatment for depression and anxiety disorders depends on the severity of the physical symptoms. Discuss the symptoms with a doctor, and never assume that they will go away on their own.
Therapy and medication are proven to be the most effective treatments.
Medications, including antidepressants, are effective in reducing physical symptoms of anxiety and depression. Some effective over-the-counter antidepressants include Norpramin, Effexor, Elavil, and Cymbalta. These medicines tend to tweak the chemical formation within nerve cells, enabling your body to communicate efficiently.
For managing and treating depression, doctors use different styles of therapy are used to treat depression. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are advocated as effective treatments, enabling individuals to understand the relationship between their emotions and behaviors. Focus on the moment and allow your body to heal.
Mindfulness and meditation can help you explore and understand your anxiousness, reduce stress, and find calm during panic attacks. When you become aware of the present moment, you can access resources that can help you better manage yourself. That’s because you find the stillness within you, making you aware that you already have what you need and that these resources are always with you. Again, it’s best to work with a therapist when you start practicing mindfulness, so you have expert help when learning how to change your responses to the unique situations that life throws at you.
When you feel able to address your mental health issues, start by focusing on the physical symptoms and keep track of their frequency and intensity to diagnose what causes them. You need to emphasize and keep track of when you experience higher physical symptoms, are they during times of increased sadness, nervousness, or stress?
Once you identify the physical symptoms of depression, it becomes easier to address them with proper medications and therapy. Since the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as chronic pain, distress, stomach, and headaches, go hand in hand. So, easing pain could, in fact, lift your depression. Bear in mind that continuous and vague physical symptoms, as highlighted above, could be a clue that depression or anxiety is on the rise and it’s time to seek professional help.