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What are the Physical Symptoms of Severe Depression?

written by: Diana Cooper • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 9/6/2010

Depression can affect the body, especially when the condition is severe. Aches, pains, and stomach upset are some of the physical symptoms of severe depression. Learn what other symptoms can occur.

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    Depression and Health

    Depression Depression does not just involve emotional symptoms like sadness. It can also involve physical symptoms, especially in people who suffer from severe depression. Poor emotional health can affect the body in a number of negative ways, including slowing down digestion, weakening the immune system, and decreasing one's threshold to pain. If untreated, serious health problems can occur. People who already have health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, or epilepsy appear to have a higher risk of disability or death.

    Also, people who are severely depressed normally neglect their health. They may not eat properly, exercise regularly, take their medications like they should, or they may abuse cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol. These actions, even in people without depression, can greatly cause problems to the human body. Below are physical symptoms of severe depression.

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    Physical Symptoms

    Appetite and Weight

    Some people may experience a decrease in appetite and this can cause an unhealthy loss in weight. Others may overeat, especially foods with no nutritional value and harmful ingredients like hydrogenated oils (a common ingredient in processed foods, especially baked goods). These people are at risk of obesity and a number of other health problems.

    Gastrointestinal Tract

    Upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation are common physical symptoms in people who are severely depressed.

    Aches and Pains

    Headaches, migraines, muscle aches, back pain, and joint pain are often felt in people with depression. If people already suffered from any of these conditions, they may be worse when depressed. Chest pain can also be a symptom but it is very important to have this checked out by a health care provider right away to rule out heart problems.

    Sleep Problems

    Some people may not be able to get enough sleep (either they have a hard time falling asleep or they can not stay asleep) and others may sleep too much. Just as with too little sleep, too much sleep can also cause health problems.


    Many people with depression feel fatigued and exhausted no matter how much sleep they get. Some find it difficult, or almost impossible, to just get out of bed in the morning.


    Other physical symptoms of severe depression include dry mouth, lightheadedness, dizziness, sweating, impotence, irregular menstruation, amenorrhea (absence of normal menstrual flow), stiff neck, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.

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    Final Note

    If you suffer from depression and are experiencing any of the above symptoms, talk with your health care provider. Sometimes, some of these symptoms can be a side effect from antidepressant drugs. If this is the case, changing medications or dosages may help.

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    Web MD: Depression: Recognizing the Physical Symptoms -

    Family Doctor: Mind/Body Connection: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health -

    Helpguide: Antidepressants -

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    Photo Credit

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