If the patient is constantly suffering from muscle pain, sleep disturbances, migraine attacks or digestive problems, he may not expect a diagnosis of depression at all. But there is a chance that depression provokes changes in the physical body, even without serious emotional deviations, feelings of sadness or anxiety. And the long-term unrecognized presence of such depression threatens the development of serious somatic, neurological diseases or endocrine disorders.
Signs of depression: not always mood and emotions
A serious depressive disorder is a condition that is characterized primarily by persistent, depressed mood and a lack of interest in life. But many people do not know that depression has a number of other symptoms, and they are not just psychological. In fact, most of the signs that characterize depression, are physical, that is – it is the signals of their own body. Manifestations range from changes in the rhythm and depth of sleep, appetite fluctuations and a feeling of weakness in the morning, to common body pain, headache and gastrointestinal disorders. Symptoms on the part of the body are so common that their assessment and identification is an integral part of the diagnosis of depression.
But too often during the diagnostic process, the psychological symptoms recede into the background in relation to the physical. As a result, patients and doctors do not realize that the problem in the first place is depression. According to doctors, screening people for not only physical, but also emotional symptoms is important for effective treatment.
Connection of depression with body problems
Doctors can not explain why it is depression associated with many physical ailments, why suffer body. But along with bad mood and loss of pleasure in life, depressed patients often notice that they experience discomfort in different areas of the body. For example, a lower back or stomach ache. There may also be headache or chronic constipation, diarrhea and other symptoms of digestive disorders. Often, a person develops numbness or tingling in the extremities or parts of the body. The patient will try to detect the source of discomfort by looking for a physical cause, various diseases, such as thyroid problems or low blood hemoglobin. At the same time, a person, however, does not realize that it is not the body that actually suffers, but his brain.
Various pains, discomfort “from the head”
Although there is no single scientific explanation for this series of physical symptoms, scientists know that depression reduces the pain threshold. The brain combines psychology and general physiology. Areas that modulate or regulate mood also regulate pain. If they are out of order due to depression, people may experience pain or even severe pain in different parts of the body. It is also noted that depression causes changes in the vegetative system that can lead to gastrointestinal disorders.
Not all physical symptoms of depression — fatigue, lack of concentration, or intestinal problems — have a definite medical explanation. The exact reasons why people with depression experience pain that feels stronger than usual, or why they suffer from constipation, have decreased activity, are not yet clear.
Search for a disease, not mental problems
Doctors say that when patients experience the physical “side effects” of depression, their first instinctive desire is to see a doctor to determine what is wrong, what diseases they have. Once at the doctor’s office, they vividly describe the physical symptoms, manifestations, respond to a series of clarifying questions, and can undergo laboratory tests. Together with the doctor, they are looking for an easily identifiable physical response – the presence of a specific disease. Often they simply do not mention that they feel depressed, and a busy doctor who does not deal with mental health, but somatic, does not assess their emotional state, except for somatic diseases or infections.
It is quite normal for doctors to examine patients for diabetes, to exclude the development of hypertension and blood pressure surges. Screening patients for depression is not very common. Therefore, if the patient himself in the listing of complaints does not provide several typical symptoms (no interest in life, everything seems gray, apathy, drowsiness) that make up the diagnosis of clinical depression, often the diagnosis is incorrect.
Bad sleep, mood and appetite – this is not the norm!
Even if doctors ask patients if they are depressed, they do not always get a clear answer. Sometimes a person focuses on his pain in the abdomen or back, and cannot mention the poor mood or disturbed sleep accompanying them because he is afraid of the stigma of mental illness. In other cases, patients are simply not aware of the signs of depression and have no idea what they are experiencing. And sometimes they think that this is normal – poor sleep, depression, a feeling of sadness, so they do not mention that their frequent migraines are also accompanied by depression.
Many believe that poor sleep, lethargy or drowsiness – is the result of hard work, failure in the mode or just age. But in reality, sleep problems are often one of the manifestations of depression. Sometimes it is difficult to accurately describe all the sensations that arise, their close intertwining, plus, some patients are simply not so psychologically minded, and it may be difficult for them to turn the emotions that they experience into words. Therefore, they may feel bad, they have a disturbed sleep, mood, but it is easier to say that their back hurts, they feel tired and irritated, than to describe the nuances.
Recognize and treat depression
Does a recurring headache combined with a feeling of indisposition always mean that the patient has clinical depression? Doctors say it is not always clear. Depression is a complex disease, and it presents various symptoms and their combinations. It is difficult to describe the “normal” feelings and depressive. However, there is a difference between isolated pain in the arm, which is probably musculoskeletal, and many of the combined physical symptoms that commonly occur in depressed patients. Therefore, doctors should monitor patients for problems such as pain, irritable bowel syndrome and sleep disorders, and then check them for emotional symptoms to rule out depression.
If physical symptoms are indeed part of clinical depression, the patient is likely to need treatment, exercise, and medication. As emotional symptoms improve, so do physical ones. However, symptoms should be assessed on an ongoing basis. If they do not disappear, another treatment may be required.