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5 Physical Symptoms of Depression 

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Physical Symptoms of Depression

Depression Affects Recovery

Depression is a condition where low levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin can lead to feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. Understanding the physical symptoms of depression can help you or a family member see the signs early. 

While there are many manifestations of this condition, it is often a contributing factor in overdrinking. Alcohol gives a short-term mood boost to sufferers; however, escalating alcohol consumption actually exacerbates the condition.

Those suffering from depression are unlikely to recover by abstinence alone, so the condition is seldom addressed by 12-step programs that focus on this as the sole solution. A.A. groups are usually run by volunteers who are not experts in depression.

That’s why a dual diagnosis program is needed for a full recovery. Often mental problems are intertwined with addiction. The 12-steps started with Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935 when psychiatry was in its infancy, and it has remained the same. 

More About Depression

Depression is an incredibly common mental illness, with about 300 million people suffering from depressive symptoms worldwide. Despite these staggering numbers, depression is still widely misunderstood and stigmatized.

Many people who have never experienced mental illness still think of disorders like anxiety and depression as being “all in your head.” 

The truth is that all pain and discomfort happen in our heads, where our brains send signals to let us know something isn’t right.

Symptoms of depression are often emotional, but they can manifest as physical pain and bodily dysfunction just as frequently. 

Understanding the physical symptoms of depression may help those struggling with poor mental health and their loved ones to spot the signs as early as possible, as well as change the perception of depression as a purely mental issue.

While experiencing one or many of these physical symptoms of depression, it is important to seek the assessment of mental health professionals to receive an accurate diagnosis.   

5 Physical Symptoms of Depression

1. Fatigue

One of the most common physical symptoms of depression is the feeling of being constantly tired and drained. 

While depression exhaustion can be mental, it often presents as a lack of physical energy.

This may occur as a result of low-quality sleep, especially for those that attempt to manage their depression with drugs or alcohol. 

For some people, low quality sleep means insomnia and sleep deprivation, while for others it might mean sleeping constantly without ever feeling rested.

Alcohol adds to this effect by interrupting the REM (rapid eye movement) cycle, causing the brain to miss out on the most restorative periods of sleep throughout the night.

Incessant fatigue makes working and socializing especially difficult, and can contribute to the sad and hopeless feelings that often accompany depression.

Fatigue may also cause a depressed individual to abandon their workout routine and become less active, which can exacerbate depression over time.  

2. Aches and Pains

Depression can quite literally hurt.  Just as when you have the flu and your body seems to ache all over, depression can cause mild pain and discomfort to amplify, becoming severely distracting and debilitating. 

Because our brains are responsible for producing the sensation of pain, poor mental health can cause inappropriate responses to varying degrees of pain.

Research has confirmed that depression lowers pain tolerance, intensifying pain that would otherwise be manageable. 

For example, while back pain can be a result of an injury or bad ergonomics, it is also often associated with psychological health.

While the factors determining this link are still being studied, research suggests that depression may lead to inflammation in the body, often concentrated in the neck and back.  

3. Digestive Issues

Medical researchers are only recently uncovering the many ways in which our gut health impacts nearly every other bodily function, including brain processes that regulate mental wellbeing. 

There may be more science-based explanations behind the old advice to “trust your gut” than we once thought.

Anxiety and depression often result in feelings of nausea, diarrhea, and general unease in your belly.  Stomach pain or discomfort that seems to increase along with stress may be tied to depression.

While there is still much research to be done, issues with digestion as a result of depression may be caused by inflammation in the intestines and stomach lining. 

These symptoms are often misdiagnosed as a purely physical disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome, rather than attributed to mental illness.  

4. Headaches

Headaches are difficult to translate into a definitive diagnosis, simply because they occur so often and there are several different types. 

Some people experience headaches every so often as a result of dehydration or stress, while others endure excruciating chronic migraines.

Headaches that occur almost daily and seem tied to your emotions, however, may be a sign of mental health issues. 

These are usually tension headaches, and while not as incapacitating as migraines, they can lead to irritability and make it difficult to find enjoyment in everyday activities.

Pain relievers can help manage headaches, but if the underlying cause is depression, mental health care is required to alleviate symptoms for good.

5. Decreased Sex Drive

Depression can affect libido, which in turn may lead to relationship problems and mental strife.

While it is normal to experience fluctuations in sex drive over time, suddenly losing all interest in sex may be a sign of depression.

Some people who experience this symptom become frustrated because they wish they desired to have sex again, or that they could be on the same page as their partner. 

Without treating the root cause of decreased libido, however, improving sex drive can be a significant challenge for people struggling with depression.

Studies have found that people who are experiencing addiction and depression simultaneously are at a heightened risk for sexual dysfunction.   

Depression Often Co-Occurs with Alcohol

Depression is a common co-occurring disorder for those battling substance abuse. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental illness, now is the time to seek help

At Burning Tree Ranch, we specialize in long-term care that produces real results, especially for those who have experienced relapses.

Here you will find a team of qualified and compassionate professionals ready to help each client through a customized long-term treatment program that addresses all aspects of addiction, including the identification of co-occurring disorders.

We know that the journey towards recovery doesn’t end with the conclusion of an inpatient program, and therefore we provide extensive aftercare programs to best support our clients during their transition into lasting sobriety.

We also know that addiction affects the whole family, and therefore loved ones are encouraged to participate in the recovery process and take advantage of all our support resources. 

Learn More About Our Program For Depression

Call admissions to learn more about Burning Tree Ranch’s dual diagnosis treatment center in Texas. Learn how you can add structure and accountability to your treatment experience and have long-term recovery.


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