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7 Physical Symptoms of Depression

Most people are familiar with, or at least know about, the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that come with bipolar depression, but many people don’t realize that depression can cause physical problems as well. Many people actually seek help from medical professionals for physical symptoms without realizing they could be part of depression. The majority of people with depression also report having physical symptoms. There is increasing evidence that the same mechanisms that cause depression in the brain can also affect other body systems as well. Here are seven physical symptoms that can be found alongside depression.

1 Headaches
Headaches are incredibly common with bipolar disorder. People with migraines are two to three times more likely to suffer from depression. More than a quarter of people with bipolar disorder also experience migraines.

2 Body aches
Aside from common aches and pains, there are also other types of chronic pain experienced more often by people with bipolar disorder. Twenty-five percent of people with fibromyalgia also have concurrent bipolar disorder. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are also more common in people with bipolar disorder. It is possible that inflammation that occurs in these physical illnesses can affect moods as well.

3 Trouble sleeping
Sleep disturbances are among the top symptoms of bipolar disorder. There are two ways people are generally affected. One way is that people suffer from insomnia and are not able to get enough sleep. The other is that people sleep too much, often sleeping 10-12 hours a day while in a depressive state.

4 Weight changes
Like sleep disturbances, weight change is one of the top symptoms of depression. There is often significant weight change during a depressive period. People will often gain or lose at least 10% of their body weight because of appetite increase or decrease due to depression. Weight changes can also occur as a side effect of medication for bipolar disorder.

5 Digestive problems
There is a “second brain” in the digestive tract called the enteric nervous system that can also be affected by depression. People with bipolar disorder often complain of symptoms like lack of appetite, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowels. Digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease, colitis and ulcers can also be affected by depression.

6 Chest pains
People with depression and bipolar disorder are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease than the general population. Depression can exacerbate this by affecting heart rate and rhythms as well as blood pressure. Even people without cardiovascular disease have reported experiencing chest pain while experiencing symptoms of depression.

7 Fatigue
Fatigue is not just sleepiness that goes along with sleep disturbances. It is severe fatigue associated with a complete lack of energy. It can cause difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, indecisiveness, moodiness, irritability, and poor cognitive function as well as physical symptoms like lethargy and slow reflexes.

If you are experiencing or have experienced these symptoms over an extended period, contact your doctor. You may be experiencing symptoms of depression or another underlying condition.



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Image credit: Lee Health

7 Physical Symptoms of Depression

LaRae LaBouff

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APA Reference
LaBouff, L. (2017). 7 Physical Symptoms of Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Nov 2017
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