What do insomnia, sadness and physical pain with no apparent explanation have in common? They can all be signs of depression.
Depression is a common mood disorder, with over 300 million people living with it worldwide. And depression is much more than simple unhappiness. It hurts. Not just emotionally, but physically too.
Let’s find out exactly what depression does to your body. And if you think you have depression, how can you manage it?
It’s normal to be sad sometimes. It happens to all of us. But when sadness becomes so overwhelming that it makes you lose interest and enjoyment in life, it can grow into a full-scale depression.
Depression affects your mood and appetite. It keeps you awake at night. It can even make you think about hurting yourself.
They say that it’s all in your head. But depression isn’t limited to your emotional state. It comes with a set of physical symptoms, which affect anything from your heart to your immune system.
Depression hurts you. But how is physical pain related to your emotions?
People with depression often overlook their physical symptoms. But the pain that comes with depression isn’t a result of denying your emotional disorder and converting it into a bodily one. That pain is real.
This mood disorder comes with fatigue. It wipes out your energy and doesn’t let you restore it through a good night sleep. Because chances are, you’re having trouble falling asleep. Insomnia weakens your immune system, making existing illnesses worse, or even cause new ones.
A weak immune system makes it much harder for your body to fight infection. In older people, it can even make vaccinations less effective.
If you’re depressed, you can lose your appetite completely, or start overeating; causing your weight to fluctuate.
If left untreated, excessive eating can lead to obesity-related illnesses like diabetes. Malnutrition, on the other hand, can cause cramps, stomach aches and constipation.
Under this kind of long-term stress, your body releases more of the stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol speeds up your heart rate and makes your blood vessels shrink. Narrow blood vessels can give you chest pain and cause a whole range of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart attack.
Cortisol is also known for blocking calcium absorption, which, in turn, decreases the growth of your bone cells. In short, it changes your bone mass and can lead to osteoporosis.
Apart from elevated levels of cortisol, depression triggers a decrease in neurotransmitters like dopamine. With a lack of these neurotransmitters in your brain, your body struggles to regulate biological processes like appetite, sleep and sex drive.
Depression also makes you very sensitive to pain. You may have seen videos of people showcasing sudden superpowers in some stressful situations. But that’s not the kind of long-term stress you get with depression. Depression makes you notice even minor pains. Pains that you would usually ignore.
On top of that, mental pain and physical pain activate some of the same regions of the brain. It seems as though your brain can mistake your emotional pain for physical distress. So if you struggle with migraines or back pain, or any other unexplained body aches while feeling depressed, don’t assume they’re unrelated.
Symptoms of depression can last for weeks, months or even years. The good news is, it’s treatable. But you can’t just put yourself back together by yourself. If you or someone you love are feeling blue, the first thing you should do is talk. Talk to your family and talk to your doctor. Find an appropriate treatment to ease the pain.