By Catriona Harvey-Jenner
Depression is a mental health issue that can take over a person’s mind, but that doesn’t mean the implications of the illness can’t take a physical form. In fact, it’s quite common for people who suffer from depression to experience a range of physical ailments, ranging from difficulty sleeping to intense fatigue.
We spoke to Dr Ahmer Aziz, a doctor at AKEA Life, to find out a bit more about these physical manifestations and why they occur.
Intense tiredness is something that’s widely reported among people with depression. “You are experiencing a general lack of energy or drive and easily find yourself becoming tired with even the most trivial of tasks,” says Dr Aziz, explaining that this can be because you feel drained with a constant “unexplained feeling of sadness, despair, or hopelessness”. The doctor also adds that “putting on a brave front and hiding how you feel inside” can increase your fatigue further.
2. Sleep disturbance
The fatigue you might experience could often be linked to this; disturbed sleep. “You may find that you are having difficulty getting to sleep, often having little or no sleep,” the doctor says. “When you are managing to get some sleep, you may find you are waking up early in the morning without any clear reason.” This is often due to thoughts going round in your head and a feeling of being unable to switch off.
3. Making mistakes
“Most of the time we are sharp and focused in our daily lives, or ‘on the ball’,” says Dr Aziz. But people suffering from depression, he notes, can experience “a consistent regular pattern of ‘off days’ and making mistakes.” The doctor puts this down to “poor concentration or indecisiveness” as a result of the condition.
4. A poor diet
With depression can come a desire to over-eat, or ‘comfort eating’, in an attempt to life your mood. But Dr Aziz warns “this may cause some weight gain,” which can in turn play into feelings of low confidence and self-esteem as mentioned below. “Alternatively you may find that you are subconsciously under eating and as a result may be losing weight,” says the doctor, noting that it’s important to eat enough to give you energy when in a period of depression.
5. A lower sexual libido
If your physical urge to have sex has plummeted since your period of depression began, this is likely to be due to your confidence and self-esteem. “You may find that you are suffering from reduced confidence levels and lowered self-esteem and libido,” says Dr Aziz. “Self-esteem is about how you think about yourself. You may feel less comfortable with how you look and how you feel,” he adds.
6. Psychomotor retardation
“You may find you are noted by others to be visibly slower to move,” says Dr Aziz, which is known as psychomotor retardation, and is a common physical symptom of depression. “This may also affect your speech which may slow down as well,” adds the doctor.
7. Aches and pains
As concerning as it may be, “suffering from aches and pain which have no explained cause” is actually something a lot of depressed people experience. It’s worth making sure you explore any alternative causes before assuming this is definitely down to depression, however.
8. Restlessness and agitation
On the other end of the scale to psychomotor retardation is a feeling of constant restlessness. People frequently report being “unable to get comfortable and become easily agitated when faced with trivial problems”, explains Dr Aziz.
9. Digestive problems
A churning stomach is a common repercussion of being depressed. “You may find you are suffering from unexplained nausea, diarrhoea or even constipation,” says the doctor. This is thought to be due to the link between the brain and the gut which is especially prominent when you endure periods of depression or anxiety.