5 Physical Causes (and Symptoms) of Depression that May Surprise You

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BY AYLIN ERMAN

Depression is a mood disorder of major taboo and hard to relate to unless you’ve been through it yourself. For some, it’s a life-or-death condition. If you’ve experienced a depressive spell in your past or battle with it today, you’re not alone. What many people don’t know is that depression is as physically debilitating as it is emotionally. Here are five physical causes and symptoms of depression that affect the body.

5 Physical Symptoms of Depression

1. Insomnia

This can actually go both ways. Depressed people often either have trouble sleeping from increased anxiety or sleep too much due to lethargy and fatigue.

2. Chest and Back Pain

Did you know that major depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease? If you experience chest pains or are feeling depressed, it may be an indication that you have heart problems. The reverse is also worth remembering – if you’ve experienced a heart disorder in the past, depression may follow suit.

3. Weakened Immune System

A weakened immune system can both cause and result on account of depression. Studies have shown that when the immune system weakens, such as during infections, it can signal the brain to worsen the sickness, inviting inflammation and depression. The brain monitors immune responses and the immune-to-brain communication pathways can lead to the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Studies confirm that the activation of the immune system can lead to a cytokine-induced depression.

Meanwhile, depression can weaken the immune system if you are not getting enough sleep or aren’t eating properly.

4. Digestion Problems

Your gut microbiota is linked to depression vis-à-vis the so-called “gut-brain” axis. Certain gut microorganisms are able to produce and deliver neuro-active substances such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid. This means your gastrointestinal tract can cause mood disorders, including depression.

5. Aching Muscles and Joints

If you live with depression, you may be more likely to experience muscle and joint pain. Depression and pain share a common neuro-chemical pathway. They are both influenced by serotonin and norepinephrine. They must both be treated together to heal fully.

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