Physical Symptoms of Depression….

Since Vic’s blotched back surgery in 2002 I have been on anti-depressants. The anti-depressants allowed me to continue functioning; fighting – living. It made life bearable. I was able to survive and support my child through 11 years of hell. The tablets certainly dulled my senses, my emotions. I have also gained 15 kgs in weight.

I have decided that I can no longer rely on medication. I have to take back control of my life. I have to heal. I have to let go of all my crutches.

I know I have to wean myself off the medication… Now that I no longer have symptoms and treatments to research to keep Vic alive, I decided to research depression. It has been absolutely amazing! I will be doing a series on depression and the treatment thereof.

Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety are obvious signs of depression. A less known fact is that depression can also cause unexplained physical symptoms. Physical pain and depression often go hand in hand….

Depression has no respect for colour, creed, sex or nationality. Depression does not discriminate.

The exact cause of depression is not known. Depression seems to be related to an imbalance of certain chemicals in your brain. Some of these same chemicals play an important role in how you feel pain. So many experts think that depression can make you feel pain differently than other people. An episode of depression may also be triggered by a life event such as a relationship problem, bereavement, redundancy, illness; or it can develop without any reason; there may be some genetic factor involved that makes some people more prone to depression than others. Women are more predisposed to depression than men i.e. postnatal and menopausal depression….

Depression is quite a common cause of physical symptoms. But, the opposite is also true. That is, people with serious physical conditions are more likely than average to develop depression.

A high percentage of patients with depression who seek treatment, in a primary care setting, report only physical symptoms, which can make depression very difficult to diagnose. Many people suffering from depression never get help because they don’t realize that pain may be a symptom of depression. The importance of understanding the physical symptoms of depression is that treating depression can help with the pain–and treating pain can help with depression.

Physical pain and depression have a deeper biological connection than simple cause and effect; the neurotransmitters that influence both pain and mood are serotonin and norepinephrine. Dysregulation of these transmitters is linked to both depression and pain.

I have noted a common denominator in the lives and blogs of chronic pain sufferers – depression. Pain in its own right is depressing. Depression causes and intensifies pain. Some research shows that pain and depression share common pathways in the limbic (emotional) region of the brain. In fact, the same chemical messengers control pain and mood. According to an article published by the Harvard Medical School, people with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing psychiatric symptoms–usually mood or anxiety disorders–and depressed patients have three times the average risk of developing chronic pain.

The link between pain and depression appears to be a shared neurologic pathway. Some antidepressants, such as Cymbalta and Effexor, is used to treat chronic pain.

Most of us know about the emotional symptoms of depression. But you may not know that depression can be associated with many physical symptoms, too

In fact, many people with depression suffer from chronic pain or other physical symptoms. These include:

  • Headaches. Headaches is a common symptom of depression. Research found that over a two-year period, a person with a history of major depression was three times more likely than average to have a first migraine attack, and a person with a history of migraine was five times more likely than average to have a first episode of depression.
  • Back pain. Back ache is aggravated by depression. A study from the University of Alberta followed a random sample of nearly 800 adults without neck and low back pain and found that people who suffer from depression are four times more likely to develop intense or disabling neck and low back pain than those who are not depressed.
  • Muscle aches and joint pain. Depression can make any kind of chronic pain worse. According to research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, arthritis-like physical symptoms may improve if the depression is treated with medication.
  • Chest pain. Chest pain must be checked out by a doctor immediately. It can be a sign of serious heart problems. But depression can contribute to the discomfort associated with chest pain. A study from the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, indicates several common factors among those affected by chest pain not linked to biomedical factors such as heart disease or some other illness–depression was one of the significant common factors.
  • Digestive problems.  Queasiness, nausea, diarrhoea and chronic constipation can all stem from depression. Studies show that up to 60 percent of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also have a psychological disorder, most commonly depression or anxiety. According to one study published in General Hospital Psychiatry, those who reported symptoms of nausea were more than three times as likely to also have an anxiety disorder, and nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to suffer from depression. Depression is a possible cause for digestive disorders
  • Exhaustion and fatigue. No matter how much one sleeps, they still feel tired. Getting out of the bed in the morning is very hard, sometimes even impossible. Fatigue and depression are not a surprising pair. Depression and fatigue feed off each other in a vicious cycle that makes it hard to know where one begins and the other ends. Researchers have found people who are depressed are more than four times as likely to develop unexplained fatigue, and those who suffer from fatigue are nearly three times as likely to become depressed.
  • Sleeping problems. People with depression often have difficulty falling asleep, or awaken in the early hours of the morning and find themselves unable to get back to sleep. It is reported that 15 percent of people suffering from depression sleep too much. Lack of sleep alone doesn’t cause depression, but it can contribute–and lack of sleep caused by other illness or anxiety can make depression worse.
  • Change in appetite or weight.  Several studies have found excess weight to be linked with depression symptoms, a history of depression, and other measures of psychological distress (e.g. anxiety). Others suffering from depression experience a reduction in appetite i.e. weight loss.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness.

Because these symptoms occur with many conditions, many depressed people never get help, because they don’t know that their physical symptoms might be caused by depression. These physical symptoms aren’t “all in your head.” Depression causes real changes in your body. 1

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I am a sixty plenty wife, mother, sister, grandmother and friend. I started blogging as a coping mechanism during my beautiful daughter's final journey. Vic was desperately ill for 10 years after a botched back operation. Vic's Journey ended on 18 January 2013 at 10:35. She was the most courageous person in the world and has inspired thousands of people all over the world. Vic's two boys are monuments of her existence. She was an amazing mother, daughter, sister and friend. I will miss you today, tomorrow and forever my Angle Child.

33 thoughts on “Physical Symptoms of Depression….”

  1. Did I mention SamE to you? I’ve been told it really helps with depression and joint pain and balancing the liver function. It is all natural, no side effects. I’ve ordered some and it will take a few weeks to get to me, but I’m going to give it a go and see if there’s a difference. :)


    1. Could you please send me the details when you receive it. It was interesting to see that a side-effect of the meds that help for joint pain is depression…


  2. depression is such an empty word, because it is defined by not one but many symptoms and it can rule and run your life. I know you can do this. Keep the good memories tucked close to your heart and make new memories by walking forward one step at a time each day on


  3. I have suffered from depression myself for the past eight or nine years…But I think it started a long time before that, when my first husband took his own life. Having said that, thanks to an incredibly supportive husband and family and I think a certain amount of determination not to let it beat me (PLUS Effexor!) I have been improving for the past year or so and have reduced my dependency on anti-depressants dramatically. Only on a low dose now. The drowning description at the end is exactly right. What has helped me is my love of writing. I write a lot – not only my blog but short stories and I even wrote a novel! I tapped into my creative side and that dragged me out of it. Or rather, perhaps it was an outlet. I think painting or music could do the same thing. Just a thought. It’s been a battle, though. As I am sure you know. Good luck and take care, and thanks for this helpful post.


    1. Thank you for sharing. I started blogging when it was clear that Vic was dying. It has been a source of great comfort to me. I love your book reviews!


  4. I beleive it is also geneic as my mother was maniac depressive andI see it inmy siblings and myself at different levels, I also see it due to the chronic pain andgrief in myself…excellent info thank you for sharing:)


    1. It is definitely genetic – my maternal grandmother, mom and siblings suffer from depression. I believe my depression is due to Vic’s health challenges and decline over the years. That is why I believe I can now go off my meds.


      1. I sure hope you can get off the meds, I took myself off over a year ago and though I have bad days I still feel better off of them than on. I went on after Klysta died.


      2. no I took myself off…the thoughts of suicide were so strong I came so close too many times, now that I am off of them the dr is upset with me but I don’t want to kill myself all the time. I think they are just poison of the body and the mind.


  5. When I talk about the change I was going through right before Philip died, it’s about depression; I’ve been depressed for so much of my life, even after I dealt with my various addictions. How bizarre or ironic is it that just as I am coming to figure out how to live with some sense of freedom, my son dies and I’m slammed right back to where I started. Well; maybe not that far. But certainly it is so much harder to believe life will be okay. Without Philip? I can’t see it. So you’ll be doing a series of posts about depression; I look forward to it. You’re an angel, you know. Concerned with others, much as you’re suffering so yourself. Blessings to you; my heart and thoughts are with you.


    1. Denise I don’t think a mother ever recovers from the death of a child. Certainly Life Without one’s child is the most vicious cruel thing to ever have to come to terms with. Lots of fond wishes and thoughts dear Denise.


  6. Great piece Tersia… hope all goes well as you withdraw…
    I often have counselling clients with depression which eases when they get in touch with their buried or repressed feelings and acknowledge and release them…


  7. As one who struggles with chronic depression, I would say use caution coming off those meds. I gave up medication in the summer of 2004. I just didnt want to be a slave to medication. I didnt want to have to rely on something that mostly didnt work anyway. I decided I was just going to have to learn to live with all my emotion. So I quit. By the fall of 2005, I really wanted to be dead. It was when I hit that bottom that I found Jesus. But even now, I still struggle. I handle things better though through prayer and talking.

    So, be careful. Make sure you have a really good support system around you, people you can cry with, a therapist, a group. Just don’t try to tough it alone. And listen to your thoughts. When all I can think about is dying, that’s when I consider medication again, even temporarily to get out of that deep blackness. There are some really great natural remedies I found doing research. The one that worked the best for me was called 5htp. I’m praying for you Tersia! I love you! Jesus loves you more! Hang in there!


    1. Thank you so much! I received a message from a good friend this morning cautioning me too. Thank you so much for your love and concern. And mainly thank you for your prayers. Much love!!


  8. Dearest Tersia, I read all of your posts – but haven’t commented lately. Just know that I am thinking of you always. I remember my grief journey well. I see you expressing your grief and that is very healing. It is excruciating and unending. Empty and torturous. Lonely, lonely, lonely. When I was leader for the grief organization Compassionate Friends, I remember that everyone coped in different ways with their pain. Sometimes, medication was the only way to make living bearable. It deadens that pain and sometimes that is absolutely necessary. Everyone has to figure out a way to cope. The only insight that I have to offer, is that the grief work (and it is work) is simply delayed by the meds. The pain returns later on and the grief needs to be addressed. That delay is simply what it is. I met a woman who felt as if she was just starting to deal with her grief after ten years on anti-depressants. You will find out what you need to do to get through this. Just know that the most beautiful thing about you is your honest expression of your grief. I never knew Vicky, but I cry to imagine what you BOTH went through! With much love, Judy


    1. Thank you dear Judy! I too believe that although I am grieving it is only touching the surface. The meds are numbing my emotions. How are your eyes?? Lots of love T


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