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.