Approximately 1 in 5 adults are experiencing mental illness in any given year, pushing Americans to better our understand these disorders than ever before. Once shrugged off as nothing more than a weakness of character, Americans are speaking up more than ever before to share their story and help others to realize that they are not alone in their daily battles.
With openly discussing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, we are also starting to recognize that they are more than just a mental game. Highly debilitating in many cases, these diseases and disorders can impact every area of our lives including struggles with our self-esteem, our motivation and even physical aches, pains and ailments.
The reason for this association between mental health struggles and physical pain is still being explored, however, there have been great advances in understanding this connection. For example, in a 2008 study, researchers concluded that depression impacts the brain in a way that it actually limits our ability to manage the pain experience, causing us to feel pain more than we would have prior to the disorder.
While these symptoms are not a clear diagnostic tool, as most of these pains can be caused by a number of other conditions and experiences, understanding these physical aches and pains can help us to better understand, and in turn manage our own overall health.
These 12 physical symptoms may be caused by anxiety and depression:
#1 – Joint Pain
As you age you may experience some joint pain due to arthritis, but regardless of your age, joint pain may have another explanation. Those who are experiencing depressive episodes, feeling tired or highly stressed, often report feeling an ache in their joints. Your doctor will be able to distinguish between the two, as joint pain caused by depression will have no physical evidence.
#2 – Hot Flashes
Our bodies are designed to properly regulate our body temperatures, however, there are times that this may appear to fail us. If you are suddenly feeling overly hot, while everyone else in the room is looking at you a little oddly, then your body is telling you something is off internally. There may be an explanation, for example, you may be old enough for menopause or fighting off an infection and experiencing a fever. Take the time to investigate the cause with your doctor.
#3 – Neck and Back Pain
If you have a valid explanation for your pain, for example, if you pulled something while working out this morning, then don’t read too much into your pain obviously. However, if you are experiencing sudden pain in your neck or back that comes on without warning and resolves just as quickly this may be a sign that the cause is more than a strained muscle.
#4 – Exhaustion
You’ve made a point of getting your 8 hours of sleep in and, in fact, you thought that the nighttime routine went well. Yet here you are, still struggling to keep your eyes open so that you can get through your day. You may even find that it takes everything you have just to get out of bed in the morning. Exhaustion and fatigue are often associated with depression, preventing you from keeping up with your daily routine.
#5 – Diarrhea/Constipation
When someone is in the midst of a depressive episode or an anxiety attack it is no surprise that they will often pass up the opportunity to go out with their friends, but the reason for staying home may be more than just to avoid people. High levels of stress, anxiety, and depression have all been found to cause digestive issues, causing you to want to stay close to your bathroom rather than going out on the town.
#6 – Dizziness and Light-headedness
Your day is going great, or so you think until suddenly the ground starts moving around you. Your hands become shaky, you struggle to see straight, and you just need to sit down. Sudden dizziness and light-headedness always point to a bigger underlying cause. If this is happening repeatedly, or if you feel it come on but then it doesn’t pass, it’s time to see the opinion of a medical professional as it could be something far more serious.
#7 – Daily Headaches
It’s not uncommon to get a headache once in awhile depending on other factors in your life. For example, if you are under high stress you may develop a stress headache. However, if you are experiencing headaches on a daily basis, that is a sign of something bigger. Speak with a doctor and express your concerns so that they can do the necessary work to look into the root cause of your pain.
#8 – Chest Pain
This is a symptom that you shouldn’t take lightly as it may be a sign of something far more serious, such as heart problems, but chest pain may also be a sign of struggle with your mental health. This includes tightness in the chest, throbbing pain or a lesser, but ongoing, ache.
#9 – Irregular Heartbeat
There are a couple ways that this particular symptom has been found to present itself. In some, it feels more like a heart palpitation or arrhythmia, making you feel as though something is just ‘off’ in the way that your heart is beating. For others, especially those experiencing a panic attack, you may notice that your heart suddenly starts racing faster than usual.
#10 – Nausea
A physical symptom that is often associated with feelings of high stress, it is no wonder that nausea can also be brought on by depression and anxiety. If you aren’t currently battling a stomach bug, and you haven’t eaten anything that will throw your stomach for a loop, but you are struggling not to get sick then it may very well be caused by the stress associated with a depressive episode or anxiety attack.
#11 – Unexplained Cramping
Alright ladies, you are likely rolling your eyes because cramping is a regular part of our routines BUT what about the times that you may experience cramping and it’s NOT that time of the month? It may feel similar to menstrual cramping, or more like you just completed a major abdominal workout out, but without a cause to justify the pain.
#12 – Difficulty Breathing
Sure, you very well may struggle to catch your breath if you are just getting home from going for a run around the block, but what about the times that there is no precursor. If you suddenly find yourself struggling to draw in a full breath, especially if this is coupled with a change in your heart rate, pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you.