Evidence Depression Isn’t Just ‘all In Your Head’
Senior Wellness & Travel Editor, HuffPost
Depression touches people differently, making dealing with the condition more of a personal experience than a universal one. Some describe the illness as a dark cloud, while others liken it to being trapped in an empty space.
Regardless of how it personally feels, what many people don’t know is that the illness can also take a physical toll on the body. Those symptoms, combined with the emotional side effects, have the potential to be draining.
Infographic by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.
Headaches. These pains can be one of the hallmark physical signs of depression, particularly in adolescents, says John F. Greden, M.D., executive director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center. While most people report that their depression headaches are dull, sometimes the illness can cause tension headaches, Everyday Health reported. Depression can also put people at greater risk for developing migraines.
Indigestion. People with depression may experience stomach problems as well, Greden says. Additionally, digestive issues such as colitis or stomach ulcers may be worsened by extreme stress or depression, Everyday Health reported.
COMBINATION OF SYMPTOMS
Gut Health And Anxiety
Given how closely the gut and brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why you might feel nauseated before giving a presentation, or feel intestinal pain during times of stress. That doesn’t mean, however, that functional gastrointestinal conditions are imagined or “all in your head.” Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract.
In addition, many people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people do because their brains are more responsive to pain signals from the GI tract. Stress can make the existing pain seem even worse.
Based on these observations, you might expect that at least some patients with functional GI conditions might improve with therapy to reduce stress or treat anxiety or depression. Multiple studies have found that psychologically based approaches lead to greater improvement in digestive symptoms compared with only conventional medical treatment.
How Do I Manage The Physical Symptoms Of My Mental Illness
So youve found out that your constant muscle aches are the result of mental stress. What can you do about it?
Theres no silver bullet when it comes to mental health, and what works for one person might not help the next person. That being said, there are a few ways you can try to deal with your stress that might alleviate your symptoms.
One method is to use up that cortisol or adrenaline for good. If you can, engage in some cardio exercise, such as a long walk, a run, or a dance session. This might help you take your mind off the stress, even if for a moment.
Another way to deal with stress is to do something ultra-calming, whether its engaging in a hobby, slow exercise, or deep breathing techniques whatever helps you feel calm is worth practicing often.
Remember, even if it doesnt cure your anxiety or stress in the long run, a feeling of temporary relaxation can be good for you.
Put some long-term plans into place to help you deal with stress, Jones suggests. Is there some activity, task, or stressor they can delegate to someone else or simply no longer do? Can they increase their social support network or rely more on their social support network? she says.
If youve been dealing with stress or mental illness, youve probably considered therapy thats if youre not already in therapy. But if youre looking for extra encouragement to find a therapist, this is it.
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Types Of Stomach Problems From Anxiety
What’s interesting about anxiety stomach problems is that they may occur at different times for different people. Some people get stomach problems only during severe anxiety attacks. Others get these problems all throughout the day but know that they suffer from intense anxiety.
The following represent the most common types of “stomach problems” from anxiety. Remember, people often use the word stomach to also include bowels, colloquially.
Should I Be Getting Screened Regularly For Colon Cancer Or Other Gi Tract Cancers
As of 2021, the United States Preventative Services Task Force and major GI medical societies recommend that adults at average risk for colorectal cancer are regularly screened beginning at age 45.
People who have a family history of colorectal cancer or other GI tract cancers, including stomach or pancreas cancer, or a history of GI conditions like inflammatory bowel disease may need routine cancer screening earlier than age 45.
Talk your primary care physician about your risk and ask if you should get tested.
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Natural Treatments To Lower Acid Reflux In Depression
Before we discuss potential natural treatments for alleviating acid reflux in depression, I must emphasize on a few precautions.
Treating depression generally lowers acid reflux symptoms to a certain extent. Before opting for natural remedies, judge the severity of your symptoms.
If you are facing severe acid reflux symptoms in depression, it would be ideal to speak to your doctor or consult a gastroenterologist.
Conventional medications may help lower the severity of acid reflux and enable you to make lifestyle changes that would lower acid reflux.
Some of the natural remedies mentioned below can be employed right away such as the use of probiotics, magnesium etc. but some remedies such as yoga practice require you to be in a better frame of my mind as well as physically fit or energetic enough to practice it.
Also when using herbs be sure to rule out the possibility of drug interactions, use standardized extracts and avoid taking them at the same time as taking medicines.
Here are a few natural treatment options that may help lower acid reflux in depression:
The Immune System Suffers
Mr. Sandman plays a major role in your overall health. Your immune system fights infections while youre catching Zzzs. If your depression is keeping you awake youre at a higher risk of getting sick.
Evidence also shows depression is linked to inflammation. Thats your bodys response to stress, infection, and injury. Inflammation goes hand-in-hand with compromised immunity.
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Sleep Disturbances Aggravate Both Acid Reflux And Depression
Sleep deprivation is associated with an increase in acid reflux symptoms. Schey et al. have observed that sleep deprivation increases sensitivity to acid reflux.
Sleep deprivation may lower our pain bearing threshold and increase pain sensitivity.
Reduced pain sensitivity or disturbance in pain processing pathways can cause increased severity of acid reflux symptoms.
Sleep disturbances are a common complaint in patients with anxiety and depression. Also GERD patients experience sleep issues due to bloating or night time reflux.
Quick Gist: Sleep disturbances are a common factor in the pathogenesis of both GERD and Major Depressive Disorder. Sleep disturbances worsen acid reflux symptoms and are also associated with an increase in depression and anxiety symptoms.
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What Is The Link Between Smoking And Mental Health Conditions
Smoking is much more common among adults with mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, than in the general population.6 About 3 out of every 10 cigarettes smoked by adults in the United States are smoked by persons with mental health conditions.6 Why smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions is uncertain. More research is needed to determine this. No matter the cause smoking is not a treatment for depression or anxiety. Getting help for your depression and anxiety and quitting smoking is the best way to feel better.
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Achieving Remission In Patients With Physical Symptoms
Treating both the emotion and the physical symptoms associated with depression together is an important part of achieving remission. Unlike selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as sertraline and paroxetine, the dual-action antidepressants venlafaxine and duloxetine inhibit the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine. This dual action gives them a robust efficacy in combating depression and preventing the persistence of symptoms, which increases the likelihood of achieving remission. Numerous reports have indicated that therapeutic agents that act on multiple neurotransmitters are associated with higher rates of remission than are single agents. The selection of therapeutic agents proven to effectively promote both an elimination of a broad spectrum of symptoms and a return to full social functioning is important to the treatment of depression.
Because a majority of patients with depression initially seek treatment for the physical symptoms of depression rather than for their emotional symptoms, physicians are often aware of patients’ physical symptoms when treatment commences. Primary care physicians may want to consider using dual-action antidepressants as a first line-treatment in depressed patients who present with physical symptoms.
Anxiety Issues And Bowel Problems
- Anxiety has a strong affect on the gut, and ultimately the bowel.
- Anxiety can both speed up AND slow down intestinal movements.
- Several issues indirectly related to anxiety can also cause stool problems.
- Different types of bowel problems warrant different treatments.
- Only anxiety treatment will reduce the frequency of bowel issues in the future.
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Fatigue Or Consistent Lower Energy Levels
Fatigue is a common symptom of depression. Occasionally we all experience lower energy levels and can feel sluggish in the morning, hoping to stay in bed and watch TV instead of going to work.
While we often believe exhaustion stems from stress, depression can also cause fatigue. However, unlike everyday fatigue, depression-related fatigue can also cause concentration problems, feelings of irritability, and apathy.
Dr. Maurizio Fava , Director of the Clinical Research Program at Bostons Massachusetts General Hospital, points out that depressed individuals often experience nonrestorative sleep, meaning that they feel sluggish even after getting a full night of rest.
However, because many physical illnesses, like infections and viruses, can also cause fatigue, it can be challenging to discern whether or not the exhaustion is related to depression.
One way to tell: While everyday fatigue is a sign of this mental illness, other symptoms like sadness, feeling hopeless, and anhedonia may also be present when you are depressed.
What The Study Means
The discovery of this connection between a brain and a gastrointestinal disorder suggests that new 5-HTP slow-release therapies could treat related brain-gut conditions simultaneously.
The study is also one of the first to show that neurogenesis in the gut is possible and can correct abnormalities in the gut. Though its been known for many years that neurogenesis occurs in certain parts of the brain, the idea that it occurs in the gut nervous system is relatively new, Margolis says.
Neurogenesis may help treat other types of constipation. We see a reduction of neurons in the GI tract with age, and that loss is thought to be a cause of constipation in the elderly, Margolis says. The idea that we may be able to use slow-release 5-HTP to treat conditions that require the development of new neurons in the gut may open a whole new avenue of treatment.
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Pain Is Another Way Your Brain Communicates
If you feel discomfort identifying and talking about distressing emotions, like sadness, anger, and shame, this could cause feelings to manifest differently in the body.
If youre experiencing any of these physical symptoms for a prolonged period of time, make an appointment with your primary care doctor or nurse practitioner. If you dont already have a provider, our Healthline FindCare tool can help you connect to physicians in your area.
According to the American Psychological Association, depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting 14.8 million American adults each year.
Depression can be caused by a variety of factors, such as genetics, exposure to childhood stress or trauma, and brain chemistry. People with depression often need professional help, like psychotherapy and medication, to fully recover.
So at your appointment, if you suspect these physical symptoms might be more than surface level, request to be screened for depression and anxiety. This way your healthcare provider can connect you with the help you need.
How Mental Stress Can Cause Physical Problems
You might have heard of having a fight or flight response to danger. When we see danger, our bodies get ready to either fight the danger or run away .
Our bodies become filled with two stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. This increases heart rate and blood pressure, suppresses the digestive system, and affects the immune system.
This is meant to help us exert a lot of physical energy, which wed need if we were fighting or running away from danger. After the threat goes away, our bodies usually return to a resting state.
This is an evolutionary response thats meant to keep you safe. Its not necessarily a bad thing, as it helps you avoid or deal with danger.
A certain level of anxiety known as optimal anxiety can be very helpful in raising ones motivation to an optimal level, Manley explains. In this way, anxiety and the bit of stress it creates provides the energy and interest required to complete many daily tasks.
But if youre in a constant state of stress or anxiety, it can wreak havoc on your body.
Constant stress means your cortisol and adrenaline levels will constantly be high and youll seldom return to a resting state. It can have a negative effect on your organs and bodily functions.
Whats more is that anxiety and depression may actually lower your pain tolerance.
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What The Study Found
The serotonin shortage in the gut, the researchers found, reduced the number of neurons in the gut, led to a deterioration of the guts lining, and slowed the movement of contents through the GI tract.
Basically, the mice were constipated, Margolis says, and they showed the same kind of GI changes we see in people with constipation. .
Encouragingly, an experimental drug treatment invented by two of the studys co-authors, Marc Caron, PhD, and Jacob Jacobsen, PhD, of Duke University, raised serotonin levels in the guts neurons and alleviated constipation in the mice.
The treatmentslow-release drug-delivery of 5-HTP, a precursor of serotoninworks in part by increasing the number of GI neurons in adult mice.
Symptom #5 Exhaustion & Trouble Sleeping
Because depression and fatigue are so intertwined, it can be really hard to separate them or work out which came first.
Having no energy is a common complaint from people with depression. But theres a lot more to this than not feeling motivated.
Experts say depression causes a complete lack of energy termed anergia which can be so severe that moving around becomes excruciating. Some people saying that even getting out of bed is a daunting task.
This isnt tiredness that can be cured with sleep. This is fatigue which is a very different beast with people feeling exhausted from the moment they wake up.
Another physical sign of depression is sleepless nights and insomnia. This could mean having trouble drifting off or waking up throughout the night. But on the flip side, for others, depression can actually cause them to sleep excessively.
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Researchers Are Exploring The Link Between Ibs And Psychiatric Disorders Including Anxiety Insomnia Depression And Bipolar Disorder
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterized by varying degrees of recurring abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and gas. Even though IBS is frequently diagnosedreportedly affecting up to 23% of people around the world, and more women than men the exact cause remains unknown, and medical experts do not fully understand how the disease process works. Unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohns disease, and other inflammatory bowel diseases with similar symptoms, IBS is considered a functional disorder, which means symptoms are caused by a dysfunctional digestive system, rather than by chronic inflammation, growth, or permanent damage along the gastrointestinal tract that can identified in a physical examination. This dysfunction interrupts the normal movement of food through the GI tract, causing the related symptoms. IBS can produce different symptoms in different people, and multiple factorsboth physical and psychologicalare thought to be involved in its development.
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If You Suffer From Fatigue Anxiety Depression Or A Combination Of The Three Youve Probably Been Told By Your Doctor That Its Due To A Chemical Imbalance In Your Brain
Many doctors jump to prescribe antidepressants, with 13 percent of Americans over the age of 12 reporting they took an antidepressant in the last month, according to the latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics. In some cases, antidepressants might be beneficial, but in other cases they may be masking the underlying cause of your symptoms.
Unfortunately, most doctors dont dig deep enough to find out what may be the real cause. At Parsley Health, we use advanced testing to look at several variables that have been associated with anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Once we determine the root cause and develop a personalized treatment plan, were often able to reduce or eliminate the need for medications that treat these conditions.
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