Over the past couple months, I’ve been suffering from depression. I’m managing, but it takes a mental toll. People aren’t surprised to learn about the mental effects of depression. After all, it’s a mental illness.
What people are surprised to learn – and I often forget – is that depression is physically painful. I’m not speaking in analogies, either. Depression literally hurts. Anyone who has experienced depression already understands this, but for the rest of you, I will explain.
Depression Has Physical Symptoms
Emotions – all emotions – have physical sensations. Folks experiencing joy often laugh and the term “belly laugh” isn’t just something people say; it’s a literal description. People experiencing extreme sadness often cry. Finally, being nervous can lead to butterflies taking up residence in your stomach.
Depression is serious and, unlike the common mythology, it’s far from all in someone’s head. During a depressive episode, a person’s body becomes heavy and movement very difficult. I’ve described it as running in concrete shoes, except no one can see the shoes.
Aside from extreme lethargy, other side effects of depression can include insomnia or excess sleeping. Both are equally disruptive to a person’s physical health. Our culture doesn’t give sleep the respect it deserves, and we’ve all succumbed to the effects of poor sleep hygiene at some point in our lives.
Co-Occurring Symptoms of Depression
Depression’s primary symptom slows down peoples’ thinking and makes them believe they are worthless. Those in this state often make poor decisions when it comes to eating, hygiene, and general self-care.
While not technically a symptom of depression, attempting to exist on a diet of cupcakes, chips, and soda isn’t a healthy choice and carries with it unpleasant physical consequences.
Additionally, per the CDC, 48% of women and 40% of men with severe depression smoke cigarettes. Nearly twice as many depressed smokers as non-depressed smokers average more than a pack each day (28% vs. 15%). The poor health consequences of cigarettes are well understood and the link between depression and smoking is clear.
Yes, Depression is Physically Painful
For a moment, ignore all the examples above and consider this: Depression makes a person feel alone and worthless. In many cases it, causes someone to consider that suicide is a reasonable decision.
That kind of emotional turmoil doesn’t just exist inside a person’s mind. It radiates through the entire body. I, personally, have been awake for over 48 hours crying, lying in my own sweat and drool, and literally dripping snot all over myself.
With my throat sore, my head pounding, and my vision blurry, I’ve cried out for people who never answered and have experienced emotional trauma so devastating that it can no longer be described as a feeling, but as a lack of feeling altogether.
To think that kind of mental anguish doesn’t have a physical consequence isn’t reasonable. Depression is an entire body disorder and it’s far from all in someone’s head.
Gabe Howard is a professional speaker, writer, and advocate who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He is an award-winning writer and the creator of the official bipolar shirt. (Get yours now!) Gabe can be reached on Facebook, via email, or via his website, www.GabeHoward.com. Don’t be shy — he’s not. 🙂