7 physical symptoms of depression you should be aware of

Depression not only affects your mental health but can also have symptoms like headaches, joint pain, stomach disorders and five other conditions.

When you consult a doctor for depression, the most common questions that you will be asked will include whether you have been getting adequate sleep, or if you have lost interest in your hobbies or if you have been feeling sad and experiencing emotional distress.

However, a World Health Organisation (WHO) study on the relation between depression and somatic symptoms revealed that out of 1,146 patients suffering from major depression, 69% of them reported only symptoms like headaches, constipation, weakness, or back pain [1].

If you have consulted your physician for one of these physical ailments that haven't gone despite treatment, there is a high chance it is a somatic symptom caused by depression. These are the seven physical symptoms of depression to look out for.

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1. Migraines

A study published in the Journal of Pain in 2004 revealed that migraine and depression are strongly linked to each other [1]. Other than this, depression is also known to cause and increase the onset of tension headaches.

2. Stomach ailments

Patients who are suffering from depression either complain about diarrhea or constipation. Other than this, depression is also known to cause bloating and could even trigger Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in some patients [2]. If you have been suffering from stomach aches and other such symptoms that don t subside despite conventional treatment, your gastroenterologist will refer you to a psychiatrist for further treatment.

3. Joint pain

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2004 stated that chronic joint pain and limb pain can be symptoms of depression [1]. Patients suffering from joint pain are known to also have depression due to reduced quality of life. These are the other causes of joint pain.

4. Chest pains

Several studies over the years have linked depression to cardiovascular diseases. In a study published in the journal Heart Views that included 250 patients, it was observed that the prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms was estimated to be 42% and 31%, respectively, in the total chest pain population [3]. Here s how depression can put your heart in danger.

5. Backaches

Depression and stress are known to make back aches even worse and what s more is that studies have linked depression with chronic back pain [1]. While those suffering from mild depression won t experience back aches, it is more common for patients living with major or clinical depression. Here s why you should never ignore lower back pain.

6. Fatigue and exhaustion

When you re depressed, getting out of bed in the morning seems impossible. Patients struggle to fight against exhaustion after doing mundane and routine activities [6]. This is a classic physical symptom of depression.

7. Dizziness

Along with fatigue and exhaustion, dizziness is also a common complaint among patients suffering from depression. While I don t have any studies to back this up with, I would constantly feel dizzy or lightheaded before I was diagnosed with clinical depression. After speaking with other depressed patients who I met through my social circles, they also complained of this symptom.


[1] Janke EA, Holroyd KA, Romanek K. Depression increases onset of tension-type headache following laboratory stress. Pain. 2004;111(3):230-238. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2004.06.007.

[2] Trivedi MH. The Link Between Depression and Physical Symptoms. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2004;6(suppl 1):12-16.

[3] Rohani A, Akbari V, Zarei F. Anxiety and Depression Symptoms in Chest Pain Patients Referred for the Exercise Stress Test. Heart Views : The Official Journal of the Gulf Heart Association. 2011;12(4):161-164. doi:10.4103/1995-705X.90903.

[4] Targum SD, Fava M. Fatigue as a Residual Symptom of Depression.Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. 2011;8(10):40-43.

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