Health And Wellness

8 Sneaky Ways Depression Can Manifest As Body Changes (And Often Gets Misdiagnosed)

Photo: MART | Canva
Woman crying feeling depressed

Women in the United States are twice as likely to have depression as men. That’s 12 percent of women and girls. In fact, depression strikes 1 in 4 girls by the time they reach 14. (for women In Australia and South Africa, the number us up to 40 percent). While it’s sad news to get depression, it’s sadder that depression often goes undiagnosed by doctors everywhere. This is because the physical symptoms — which are a part of depression — get separated out by the doctor and the patient! Physical symptoms of depression that show in contrasting styles in women:

  • They have high energy and are super-productive. Involved in everything simultaneously, emotional, colleagues think they’re controlling, and are extroverts. It looks like they’re too excited to be depressed...but they are.
  • They move more slowly, are chill, speak less, and do less. The day is just a day, nothing special. Even their kid’s art or a pay increase brings little joy. Colleagues think they’re introverts. Nope, it’s depression.

Neither personality types are connected with their true emotions, which is different than being "emotional." However, both have physical symptoms that hurt. Many of us women worldwide have learned to "code negative emotions" by describing our physical states instead. We indirectly describe our sad-mad-bad state because "who cares anyway?" Some of us are just plain disconnected from our sad/mad/bad emotions. Using "physical coding" (head, neck, stomach, etc.) is convenient because these physical conditions are really happening.

We lack a connection to an "emotion" vocabulary. In comparison, our self-connected, expressive girlfriend would be able to communicate the whole picture, physical, and emotional: "My team is giving me a big headache. I’m so ticked off at their decision!" Physical coding is learned through our dysfunctional family systems (including multigenerational rules), our country cultures, and educational, and spiritual cultures. It’s learned when we’re bullied. It’s learned when "secrets" like addiction drive communication underground.

We all get an occasional headache; but every day? Our doctors say it’s just stress. Hey, there’s no such ICD manual diagnosis as "Just stress." In fact, check your psyche. It may be depression and your depression is screaming out, through your physical symptoms. These symptoms hurt and they linger with depression.

RELATED: Psychiatrist Shares The One Thing He Wishes He Could Tell His Patients About Their Mental Health, But Usually Doesn’t

Here are some physical symptoms of depression that often lead to getting misdiagnosed:

1. Headaches 

Migraine sufferers will notice they’ve become worse with depression.

The Sneaky Ways Depression Can Make Your Body Hurt (And Why You Need To Pay Attention)Photo: Liza Summer/Pexels

2. Chronic back pain

People with low back pain usually have a higher prevalence of depression, and people with depression have a higher likelihood of low back pain symptoms than the general population 

3. Chest pain

Stress, anxiety and depression can also manifest as chronic chest pain.

4. Digestive problems

Digestive issues may persist, including queasiness, nausea, chronic constipation, or diarrhea.

RELATED: 7 Surprising Things That Make Your Depression Even Worse

5. Exhaustion and fatigue 

Depression can cause severe fatigue and make even the smallest activities, like getting out of bed, too difficult to manage.

6. Sleeping problems

People with insomnia have a higher risk of depression. On the other hand, depression can trigger sleep problems. Depression experts say that either can be the starting point

7. Change in appetite

Depression might result in less of an appetite and some people unintentionally lose weight as a result. Others with clinical depression may experience an increase in appetite, which can lead to weight gain.

   

   

8. Dizziness or lightheadedness

Depression and anxiety can contirbute to vertigo, dizziness or feeling unbalanced. 

RELATED: 10 Things To Do When You're Ready To Overcome Your Depression And Anxiety

Paula-Jo Husack LMFTCGP is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Life & Performance Enhancement Coach, EMDR-certified Trauma Therapist, and Founder of LeadLifeNow workshops.