There are about a billion possible symptoms of depression and anxiety.
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.
Physical symptoms of anxiety and depression 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 depression and 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.
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.
DISCLAIMER: This post is not meant to diagnose anyone. It’s simply meant to give you something to think about on your mental health journey. Seriously, I’m gonna whack you on the nose with a rolled up newspaper if you go to the doctor and say you have depression because Jen of Diffusing the Tension mental health blog told you you did.
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.
I’ve dealt with fatigue for so long, it almost feels normal. Do you ever do that thing where you get uncomfortable imagining yourself being healthy and well? Our illness begins to feel comfortable in its own weird way.
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. I quite literally could not get off the couch.
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.
This is also one of the physical symptoms of anxiety, so stay tuned!
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?
I’m not a doctor, but I would say it’s not medically normal to live with pain. So, if you live this way and haven’t sought treatment, definitely consult a medical professional!
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. That’s the hard part about pain in general!
Is this something you deal with? I know how frustrating headaches can be, so bring this up at your next appointment with your psychiatrist!
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.
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.
Stomach aches are also one of the physical symptoms of anxiety, so keep reading!
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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.
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 physical symptoms of anxiety.
So what are those symptoms?
Physical symptoms of anxiety
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!
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.
Exercise can also be a really great way to relieve this tension.
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.
Seriously. It’s easy to feel embarrassed by this, but there’s really no need. Road trips are hell for me, as is waiting in super long lines. Do not feel ashamed about something that is not your fault or choice.
Headaches and dizziness
Along the same lines as depression, there are some neurological physical symptoms of anxiety, 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
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.
Here is a truth bomb that I think is important to remember:
- Irritability is yet another of the physical symptoms of anxiety that you cannot control.
- Therefore it is nothing to be ashamed of.
- But just remember the other side of that. You have family and friends that are recipients of the irritability. It’s not pleasant for them, so apologize often. And make sure you take REAL steps to work on making a change.
I find journaling helps with my crankiness. 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.
Having your head spinning in a billion different directions is super exhausting! It is another of the most common physical symptoms of 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.