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Pain Management

The Physical Symptoms of Depression

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

The Physical Symptoms of DepressionDepression is a very tricky illness. It can mask itself in physical symptoms so that both physician and patient are unaware of what is really causing the somatic problems. What makes it even more tricky is that these symptoms are not "just in your head." In other words, depression can cause real changes in the body. This is why it is important to consult your Medical Doctor if there are persistent physical symptoms. A complete physical examination with blood and urine test will allow your MD to rule out any disease or organic process. Then, he will refer you to a therapist or psychiatrist for treatment.

Following are some examples of physical symptoms typical in depression:

1. Headaches: Common in people with depression, even  if you have migraine headaches, depression may make the pain feel worse.

2. Back pain: Depression can either cause back pain or cause suffers with back pain feel worse.

3. Muscle aches and pain can be worsened for sufferers with depression or caused by the same.

4. Chest pain: Never be your own doctor. In the event of chest pain, either see your MD or go to the emergency room. If a heart attack of condition is ruled out the pain might be the result of depression.

5. Stomach problems such as feeling, nauseous or having diarrhea or chronic constipation could be due to depression.

6. Exhaustion and fatigue regardless of the amount of sleep you get can result from depression. This is equally true for the opposite, loss of sleep.

7. Insomnia: Many people with depression complain that they do not sleep soundly.

8. Any change in appetite or weight can be caused by depression.

9. Dizziness or light-headed.

It is now known that brain chemistry plays an important role in how we feel, both emotionally and physically. For that reason, people experience such things as pain with varying intensity and tenacity.

Because depression and pain are so closely linked, pain relief can diminish depression and reduced depression can help alleviate pain.

Please be aware that anxiety and depression also go hand in hand. The combination of the two causes people to tense their body muscles thereby causing or exacerbating pain.

It is important that these problems be discussed with your physician. Either psychotherapy or anti depressant medications can alleviate the pain caused by depression and anxiety. Even if you suffer from a painful physical condition, psychotherapy can help relieve some of the pain.

Now, there are newer anti depressant medications that help with depression, anxiety and pain and psychotherapy is also an effective treatment method.

Remember, the first step is to speak to your MD.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.