5 Physical Symptoms of Depression

physical signs of depression

Hope for Dealing with Physical Symptoms

By: 2SC Staff

For most people, “depression” means just that, a feeling of sadness that lingers and casts a cloud over everyday activities. While this is true, there are some very real physical side effects that are experienced by people who suffer from clinical depression. The physical symptoms can actually lead to a deeper depression, which in turn leads to more physical problems. Breaking this vicious cycle is a key element of treating depression, no matter which method of treatment you choose. Recognizing the physical signs and finding help for them can lead to a faster recovery and better overall health and well being.

5 Physical Symptoms Caused by Depression

1. Weight Gain

Depressed people eat – a lot. A person afflicted with depression may not want to leave home, or may choose sedentary activities over active ones. Add a craving for comfort foods and empty carbs to a sedentary lifestyle and you end up with extra pounds. Dissatisfaction with your new appearance and a feeling of being out of control can make depression worse, while the physical side effects of weight gain can cause joint pain, back problems and other health issues.

FYI: Some people also lose their appetite because of depression so make sure you are working closely with your doctor regarding any changes in diet.

2. Insomnia and Sleep Issues

Some of the fatigue that accompanies depression is part of the condition, but some is caused by lack of sleep. If insomnia or constant worry and anxiety are keeping you up at night, the overwhelming fatigue that strikes each day can be directly tied to depression. Healthy sleep habits are an essential part of overall wellness, and constant sleep disruption can lead to a variety of physical complaints, from an inability to pay attention to reduced coordination and dexterity.

FYI: Some people find themselves tired all of the time and sleeping more often because of depression. Each person is different.

3. Increased aches and pains

Depression can cause real physical pain in several ways. The reduced interest in doing anything active combined with weight gain can lead to extra pressure on joints and make chronic conditions like arthritis worse. Researchers at Harvard University found that depression can cause nerve pain, so those aches and pains in your limbs and back may not be psychological at all. Some medications are designed to treat both depression and nerve pain; serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are designed to treat pain and depression at the same time.

4. Sexual difficulties

Both men and women can experience problems with intimacy when depression is involved. From impotence to a lack of interest in sex, depression can tamper with your ability to desire and enjoy sexual activity. Some antidepressants can cause sexual difficulties, so if you are already having problems in this area, discuss your medication options with your doctor.

5. Cardiac and circulatory problems

The sedentary lifestyle and lack of energy that accompany most depression is also to blame for an increased risk of cardiac problems ranging from hypertension to heart attack or stroke.

Final Thoughts

Depression can impact every aspect of your life, including your physical well-being. With proper treatment, many of the physical side effects of depression can be addressed and treated. It is important that you consult with your physician to explore possible causes of your depression, including potential medical issues. Keep in mind there can be seasonal influences on your mood, as in the case of winter depression.


A great book to consider reading is Feeling Good by David Burns, MD. Inside, you will find many concrete tools to consider as part of your general wellness plan. Many people buy the handbook that accompanies Feeling Good as a way of gaining maximum benefits.

Counseling, combined with other forms of treatment, such as medication therapy, has been clinically shown to help reduce symptoms of depression. Cognitive therapy is thought to be particularly helpful for those looking to create change and reduce negative thinking.

If you are interested in speaking with a therapist about your depression, please call us at 773-528-1777 or send us a confidential note through our confidential contact form.

To learn more about different forms of depression, please consider reading this article. If you are concerned that you may hurt yourself, please call 800-273-TALK or go to your local emergency room.

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