It is a well known fact that depression is a condition that affects one's brain and hence is usually associated with mental symptoms. But just as you, it is often questioned both by doctors and psychologist whether or not depression can have physical symptoms and affect the body.
Now depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being. A person is said to be depressed if, for more than two weeks, they have felt sad, down or miserable most of the time, or have lost interest or pleasure in usual activities. It’s important to remember that we all experience some of these symptoms from time to time, and it may not necessarily mean that we are depressed. Equally,not everyone who is experiencing depression will have all of it's symptoms.
When we talk as to how depression affects the body, we speak about the physical signs and symptoms of depression.These signs and symptoms prove that depression affects much more than moods. Some of the most common physical symptoms of depression are
-- Increased aches and pains, which occur in about two out of three people with depression
--Decreased interest in sex,
--Lack of deep sleep, or oversleeping.
All these are caused either directly or indirectly because of serotonin. For example, abnormal functioning of brain serotonin can alter the pain threshold. This means that one becomes more sensitive to pain,especially back pain. Serotonin also affects sleep and lowers sex drive. Nearly half of everybody with depression has problems with sex. Depression also increases the risk of a number of diseases and other conditions of the body, for example, increasing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol or adrenaline.It also affects the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight infections. Even vaccinations are even less effective in people with depression.
Victims are also at an increased risk of heart disease and substance abuse.Depression also alters the way the body deals with various diseases, for eg if a person has a heart disease,higher levels of stress hormones may make it harder for the body to repair the injured tissue. It also causes headaches, chronic body aches, and pain that may not respond to medication. It not only magnifies the physcial signs of the brain and body but also affects the digestive system. Depression can affect the appetite and some people cope by overeating or binge eating. This can lead to weight and obesity-related illnesses like type 2 diabetes.
According to the NIMH (2008) prolonged stress and depression affect corticosteroid production, which can result in stress hyperglycemia, hyperglycemia increases incidence of neuropathy, kidney disease,hypertension and poor wound healing. Others lose their appetite or fail to eat nutritious food. Eating problems can lead to stomach aches, cramps, constipation, or malnutrition.
Hence depression affects the body in many ways, the nervous, cardiac and immune system amongst others are hit the worst in this mental illness.