11 physical symptoms for anxiety and depression that you need to be aware of

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There are about a billion possible symptoms of depression.

What does it feel like for you? Does it feel like a darkness creeping over you? Or a deep pit you can never crawl out of?

How about anxiety? Is it racing thoughts in times of stress? Or sweaty palms before a big presentation at work?

For me, it’s not wanting to do anything. I just want to lie on the couch and veg and not be productive. And lots of irritability.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety are going to vary for everyone. You could say that no two cases are alike. Every person with mental illness is like a snowflake, unique in its own way.

If you are unfamiliar with the physical symptoms that might present themselves with common mental illnesses, check out this checklist below. This is the first installment of a weekly series, so I will be going more in depth into various symptoms in those posts!

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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.

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Physical symptoms of depression

Like I said, these symptoms can vary for everyone. My depression may not look like your depression. That’s exactly why it can be so hard to diagnose and treat. Keep that in mind as you read this. This post is not meant to diagnose anyone. It’s simply meant to give you something to think about on your mental health journey.

Fatigue

Those that live with depression know how tiring it can be. It is a heavy weight that sits on our shoulders. We often find it difficult to get out of bed.

The fatigue can have a few different causes. First of all, it could be caused by your medication. It is very common for antidepressants to cause tiredness. For example, toward the end of my journey with Zoloft/Sertraline, I was so tired, I could barely function.

Another cause of fatigue could be the lifestyle choices caused by our depression. Depression can make it so that having motivation to exercise and eat healthy food feels impossible. Sometimes, if we are able to push past that, and get in a good workout or healthy meal, we find that our energy improves.

A third possible cause of fatigue is the biology of the disease itself. There might be something about depression that simply makes you tired.

physical symptoms for anxiety and depression

Pain flare-ups

If you live with depression, you probably notice that you get random aches and pains. This is incredibly common. Depression can exist in conjunction with other chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, in which the person experiences all over or localized pain.

I spent a long time working with a neurologist to pin point the source of my pain. I was able to have some success with physical therapy, and they said I had a weak core, which was causing my back pain. But who knows how much of it was exacerbated by my moods?

Headaches

Speaking of pain, depression can also cause headaches. Many people who live with mental illness can be chronic migraine sufferers. Unfortunately, headaches can be caused by many things so it can be difficult to determine if it is the depression or something else.

Is this something you deal with? I know how frustrating headaches can be, so bring this up at your next appointment with your psychiatrist!

Vision issues

In a German study, it was found that people with depression can often have physical symptoms like difficulty with their vision. Specifically, they can have trouble seeing contrasts, such as black and white.

Have you ever noticed when you’re in a period of depression that the world seems a little fuzzy? This is a likely explanation! No wonder my vision is so yucky lately.

Stomach aches

When I’m feeling depressed, I frequently have a stomach ache. There is more and more research emerging about the link between our brain and our gut. Often, when our brain isn’t right, neither is our stomach, and vice versa.

Make sure you take a probiotic regularly! It’s good for digestion, and also good for your brain, as studies are beginning to show.

This is one I definitely experience myself. It’s better when I’m making healthy food choices, so keep that in mind as well.

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Other digestive issues

Sometimes, people with depression can have more significant issues with digestion like acid reflux, nausea, or diarrhea. IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is something that many people with depression live with.

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Another common mental illness is anxiety. Anxiety is actually the most commonly diagnosed mental illness.

Did you know that anxiety affects about 18% of adults in America each years, but only 36% of those people seek treatment? There are a lot of people who are suffering from the symptoms of anxiety.

So what are those symptoms?

Download this free PDF here!

Anxiety symptoms

Anxiety can bring its own symptoms. Some of them might mimic the symptoms of your depression, but some might be completely different. They can also be symptoms of other things! Just make sure to track these feelings, and write down how they seem to correlate with your moods. Keep these notes in a place you’ll not lose track of them, and share them at your next doctor’s appointment!

Muscle tension

When you feel anxious, do you notice yourself tensing up, with tightness and aches in random places?

Well, you’re not alone! Because of my depression and anxiety, I clench my jaw at night and have to wear a mouth guard. Many people find themselves needing regular massages, or long soaks in epsom salt.

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Stomach aches

My anxiety really messes with my stomach and bladder. When I am nervous, I frequently feel like I need to go to the bathroom. It is usually made better by keeping my brain distracted, but the discomfort is very real! So, if you experience this, you are not alone.

Headaches and dizziness

Along the same lines as depression, anxiety can cause some neurological physical symptoms, like headaches and dizziness.

The psychological distress associated with GAD involves chronic worry for most of a person’s waking hours. Thoughts may race down a spiral of anticipation and fear about one topic or may bounce incessantly from one issue or scenario to the next. This psychological experience can result, literally, in an aching head. When accompanied by an increased heart rate and changes in body temperature, dizziness can also occur.

The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Irritability

This one is very common for me. When I am feeling anxious, I am so desperate for relief and control that I become cranky. It can be difficult to cope with feelings of anxiety, so many people will lash out in anger or frustration.

I find journaling helps. Writing about the things that make you anxious takes away some of the power from the intrusive thoughts. It can also help you to understand the things you are feeling.

Fatigue

Having your head spinning in a billion different directions is super exhausting! It is very common for people who deal with anxiety to be tired a lot.

Fatigue in anxious people can also be caused by the fact that they often are unable to fall asleep at night. This causes them to get insufficient sleep, making them tired the next day.

symptoms of depression

There is hope.

Whether you have depression, or anxiety, bipolar disorder, or another mental illness, you will find one of more of these symptoms affecting you.

I totally get it. Sometimes they embarrassing. And they can leave you confused about your health. Is it depression? Anxiety? Something else? It leaves you with a lot of questions.

Try not to worry. All of this is incredibly common and nothing to be ashamed of. I personally have dealt with them all at one point or another.

Which symptoms have you dealt with? Are there any that I missed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! And make sure to share this post. You never know who might need to read it.

Here is a list of all the posts to expect in this series. I will add the links as they go live! I might not remember because, you know, brain fog. So please remind me if I forget.

Can depression cause fatigue?

Can depression cause pain and headaches?

Can depression cause vision issues?

Does anxiety cause muscle tension?

Does anxiety cause dizziness?

Does anxiety cause irritability?

Does anxiety cause fatigue?

Remember: physical mental health symptoms might be scary, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.


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Related posts to symptoms of depression:

3 Self Care Tips That Will Get You Through Lockdown

How physical and mental health are related

Health Anxiety: What it is & what you can do

7 truths you need to know about living with mental illness

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54 thoughts on “11 physical symptoms for anxiety and depression that you need to be aware of”

  1. Excellent list. My multiple diagnosed GI issues really flare up when I’m anxious/stressed. Now I’m dealing with an ulcer.

    Thank you for sharing this. I hope one day there will be a greater general awareness of the difficulties anxiety and depression cause.

    1. I really hope so too. We just have to keep speaking up. Thanks for reading, and tell me a little about yourself.

  2. These are good things to know as someone with a partner who suffers from depression. Sometimes I don’t know what signs to look out for!

  3. These are good things to be aware of especially with all the craziness right now. I’ve never experienced depression but know people who have. It’s so important to know the signs to help those you love. Thanks for sharing all this info!

  4. This is definitely a very timely post and it’s very informative. Knowing this stuff makes us aware and prevent this anxiety to take over.

  5. I think at some point we all feel a bit of anxiety and depression… for me it’s the tensing of muscles that happens with anxiety, which leads to headaches.

  6. After reading this, I see myself having more anxiety. Especially when I am running late to something. I can relate to these feelings you wrote about. Great article

  7. Several of the people I love have been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety. Luckily, they have been able to get help, and they all seem to be dealing with the pandemic remarkably well. I would encourage anyone who thinks they may have depression or anxiety to talk it over with a professional.

    1. Absolutely!! There’s no shame in mentioning it to a doctor. Glad they seem to be doing well given the circumstances. Thanks for reading!

  8. Woow. Thanks for sharing this. So informative! But I think it depends on the consistency. You can be tired because you didn’t sleep but that could only be due to work. It doesn’t need to be depression. But yes, it could also be it. So that’s why it depends. These are a lot of symptoms! Woah.

    1. Yes definitely! There are lots of things that can cause one of these symptoms, you are right. Thanks for reading!

  9. This is a great post I don’t think many people understand all the different physical symptoms you can get with mental health issues. I often struggle to work out if it is my mental or physical health causing issues at times.

  10. Great post! I definitely get a lot of muscle tension and headaches with my depression and anxiety. Irritability is also something I often feel when I’m anxious. I find that exercise can really help relieve some of that anxious energy.

    1. Same! When I stick to a workout routine, it helps take a little edge off. Thanks for reading, and sharing your story.

  11. Lack of interest and just plain “tired” is a sign of anxiety and oncoming depression for me. Have learned to recognize them for what they are & limit the impact. Reading about others really helps not feel isolated in these moments but especially in these strange times in 2020. Thank you for writing this post.

    1. No problem! I am the same way, so it’s always nice to connect with others who feel the same. Take care!

  12. I don’t typically feel deep dispair with my depression, at least not since I was in my 20’s. I do get a lot of physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches/pain (I have Fibromyalgia as well). My anxiety tends to keep me up at night with racing thoughts, it causes me to be unproductive during the day as I tend to obsess and worry over everything I am doing. I agree with you when you say it’s pretty common to feel these things with depression and anxiety. There are tons of people who suffer from one or the other or both, but there are also a lot of people that feel they need to hide it, or have been told they need to and they don’t get the help they need. We need to make more people aware that there is support and help out there, even from complete strangers to us.

    1. Absolutely! There are people out there willing to give support. We have to keep fighting to break the stigma of asking for help. Thanks so much for sharing a bit about yourself with me. Take care!

  13. Wow! I did not realize there were so many physical symptoms to anxiety before reading this. I especially didn’t know that it could cause vision issues too. Thanks so much for sharing. I learned a lot from reading this post!

    1. That was one that was new to me too. But it’s weird because I’ve been going through a bit of hard time, and I do feel like my vision is worse. I don’t know if it’s coincidence, or what. Who knows?? Thanks for reading!

  14. Some of these are ones I had not heard of, though if I’ve learned one thing about anxiety is that is causes a lot of symptoms. Probably an endless list really. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Anxiety is definitely chock full of unpleasant symptoms! You’re welcome, glad you found it helpful. Thanks for reading.

  15. Fatigue has always been a problem for me. When I’m having a particular difficult time with my depression, I get headaches and stomach problems. I think a lot of people who haven’t experienced it, don’t realise or understand the physical side of it.

    1. That is very true. It’s hard to understand if you haven’t experienced it. Hopefully you are doing well these days. Thanks for reading!

    1. Deep breathing is very useful! That helps me too when I’m anxious. Glad you found something that can help. Thanks for reading!

  16. There are so many physical manifestations of depression and anxiety and I feel like I have had some. I never knew visual symptoms might show up as depression this is so interesting.

    1. It’s very interesting! I love learning as much as I can and sharing it with people. Thanks for reading 🙂

  17. Pam Wattenbarger

    When I am depressed, I have no energy to do anything. All I want to do is stay inside and lie on the couch.

    1. Same! I’ve been forcing myself to roll out of bed in the morning and walk on the treadmill and that helps. Thanks for reading!

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