Acknowledging and Combating the Physical Symptoms of Depression

Those of us who’ve suffered from depression know the statistics: approximately 17-20 million people suffer from what most physicians and psychologists label a mental disorder. Over the past five decades, medical experts have unraveled some of the mysteries associated with depression, its causes and symptoms, and better ways in which to treat individuals who suffer from it.

Although depression continues to be an elusive disorder because it can be brought on by physiological and emotional trauma, lifestyle behaviors,  and genetic predisposition,  it shares a commonality of being associated with that which makes us unique, that which makes us who we are—the brain.

We know the emotional and mental signs or symptoms of depression:

  • Sadness/Anxiety
  • Anger/Irritability
  • Fatigue/Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness/Worthlessness/Guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide,

Most physicians diagnose depression if one suffers from more than five of these symptoms for a period of two weeks or more.  But what about those who suffer from a feeling of “something not quite right,” and have chronic physical complaints that seemingly have no explanation?

Can depression cause pain in the body?  What are depression pain symptoms?

According to an article in Psychology Today, Dr. Stephen Diamond, a Forensic Psychologist, states, “Some mental disorders, including depression, can be likened to the legendary Hydra: a massive mythological monster with nine snake-like heads, each exhaling a lethal poison. Many patients suffer from myriad symptoms—e.g., anxiety, depression, chronic pain, irritable bowel, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, panic attacks, etc.—which, after presumably being pharmacologically vanquished, return with a vengeance.” The mythical creature can never be destroyed, only “attenuated and subdued.”  The physical symptoms associated with depression can mimic myriad illnesses as well.

Dr. Diamond suggests that depression is more commonly associated with psychological problems—repressed feelings—instead of a biochemical imbalance. In same cases, only getting to the core of why one is depressed, whether that be through cognitive behavior therapy, pharmacology, or a combination of both, can depression be “permanently dispatched.”

Patients suffering from and being diagnosed with depression have complained of:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach/digestive problems
  • Muscle/Joint aches
  • Chest Pain
  • Dizziness/Lightheadedness
  • Change in Libido
  • Sleeplessness/ Excessive sleeping/Inability to concentrate

Because these symptoms can be associated with so many other physiological diseases or ailments, patients often are put through a barrage of tests in order to rule out other serious illnesses.  According to physicians, Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD, and Dennis Lee, MD in an article from, a large medical study concluded that depression increased the risk of developing coronary artery diseases, HIV, and many other physical illnesses.

Many health care experts are incorporating holistic practices to treat those suffering from depression. Twenty-first century medicine is beginning to embrace the idea of treating the patient as a whole: physical, spiritual and emotional. When one element of that whole is traumatized, the others are affected because of their inextricable link to one another. With advances in medicine, both traditional and holistic, those suffering from depression have more resources and more ways in which to combat and, possibly, cure depressive episodes than ever before.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and poet, referred to his depression when he said, “My giant goes with me wherever I go.”  Educating yourself about depression through discussions with a trusted physician, reading reputable sources about the disorder, and seeking out ways in which to accept and make peace with your own giant will result in a life worth living, filled with numerous and infinite possibilities.

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