Have you been feeling ill lately but find that you cannot figure out the cause of your pains? Are you worried that your body is continuously showing physical symptoms without reason? Depression may be the underlying trigger of many of your physical symptoms and illnesses.
Contrary to what many people think, depression is not simply a feeling of sadness; it's a debilitating condition that can affect your mind, body, and everyday functioning. But depression can take many shapes and forms, and sometimes, you may be depressed without even knowing it. The reason? We often trick our minds into believing that we can cope with anything. The truth is it's easy to deceive our minds, but not so much our bodies.
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Let’s explore what depression is, how it may manifest in your body, and how to manage this condition to improve your well-being and live a better life.
Life is hard. In the face of tragedy, challenges, or a significant loss, we may feel down, hopeless, or unable to keep going on. Sometimes, we may feel depressed after experiencing the loss of a family member or friend. Other times, we may feel hopeless after losing a job or going through a divorce.
Challenging events can trigger depressive symptoms, but depression is not limited to feeling unhappy when something terrible happens to us. In fact, a depressive episode can arise even when we have everything we ever wanted: a solid marriage, a stable job, great children, enough money, a big house, and two dogs.
Unbeknown to many, depression is not a passing feeling; it's a mental illness that has the destructive power to affect how you think, feel, and live. So the question is: how can you recognize if you, or someone you loved, is feeling depressed?
Luckily, The American Psychiatric Association has established a list of criteria that may help you become more aware. Something to keep in mind is that it is not enough to experience just one of these symptoms, but some of them for at least two weeks:
These symptoms may be easier to recognize in some cases, but not always. Sometimes our lives are too demanding or chaotic, and we have no room to stop and assess what is going on within ourselves. Those are the moments when our bodies begin to raise red flags to let us know that we are suffering.
Western societies have often approached minds and bodies as two separated entities. As a result, it is common for many people experiencing physical illnesses to seek the help of physicians or health care providers to treat those symptoms.
However, when a mental illness is impairing your physical health, you may go to a number of medical appointments and have dozens of medical tests, yet find that they always come up clear even though your physical symptoms do not go away.
Research suggests that people with chronic pain symptoms are likely to experience major depression. Depression can happen due to many physical illnesses, but it can also trigger physical symptoms. Below, we have outlined some of the most common physical symptoms of depression.
Serotonin and norepinephrine are two brain substances that moderate our mood and alter pain perception. Dysregulation of these brain chemicals leads to changes in how we feel, giving way to a cascade of physical signs. These include increased heart rate, headaches, stomach aches, back pain, chest pain, muscle aches, and high blood pressure.
Conversely, recurring pains often increase the likelihood of people experiencing depressive symptoms. Scientists have found that depression and physical pain affect similar neurological networks. As a result, it is often hard to establish if depression is the cause of physical pain or vice versa.
In many cases, depression symptoms coexist with other health conditions. Until both conditions are treated, the physical symptoms of depression and emotional pain may continue to reappear over and over again.
Perhaps life has already shown you that your digestive system and emotions are interconnected. There may be days when you start feeling nauseous an hour before doing a work presentation. Likewise, you may remember spending countless nights feeling miserable after a strong episode of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The gut-brain connection is real.
When we experience sadness, stress, anxiety, threat, or fear, our gastrointestinal system is often the first to respond to these emotions. Depression and stressful events can affect your digestive system by contracting your bowels, increasing reflux, or affecting your capacity to digest certain foods. Similarly, whatever happens within your gastrointestinal system may directly affect your mood and mindset.
For years, scientists have conducted studies that repeatedly prove that people experiencing chronic gastric problems or IBS are more likely to experience depression as a side effect and vice versa. Suffering from depressive symptoms can increase the uncomfortable episodes of IBS and gastroesophageal reflux disease. The result? A harmful cycle of chronic pain and symptoms of depression.
A good night's sleep may keep you away from the doctor. However, if you have experienced depression in the past or present, you may know how challenging it is to maintain consistent sleep patterns. Some days you may stay awake all night overthinking, and other days it may feel impossible to open your eyes and get out of bed.
Many studies have established a strong interrelationship between depression and poor sleep habits, to the point that a mental health professional may feel cautious about diagnosing depression in the absence of a significant change of sleeping patterns.
For example, one clinical study of more than 8,500 people found that 83% with depression experienced insomnia compared to 36% without depression.
Depression can affect your physical health in many different ways. In addition to the physical symptoms above, there are other potential illnesses you may experience when symptoms of depression are left untreated. These include:
We know that these symptoms may sound scary, and they certainly may cause concern. The good news is that depression is manageable, and you do not need to continue living with such psychological distress.
Nowadays, there are many approaches to treating mood disorders and major depression. Maybe you are already familiar with different types of talk therapy or with certain antidepressants. But for several decades, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has proven to be a great resource in managing depression, especially when other forms of treatment do not work.
TMS therapy is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved, non-invasive, and pain-free brain stimulation treatment. It consists of applying an electromagnetic coil to your prefrontal cortex — the area of your brain in charge of regulating your mood and emotions.
When people have depression, the activity in their prefrontal cortex decreases, which is why it becomes harder to cope, feel well, and be resilient in front of adversities. TMS therapy seeks to reawaken the brain activity in this area by sending minimal electrical stimulation to the nerve cells.
Unlike electromagnetic shocks (significant electric discharges), electromagnetic pulses are pain-free and unperceived.
Most people experiencing depression can receive TMS therapy alongside other treatments. TMS therapy has also proven effective when different types of treatment do not work. However, we know every case is different.
Only a few exceptions will prevent some people from receiving this type of treatment, including pregnancy, brain damage, certain medications, history of seizure, or epilepsy. However, we will talk to you in great detail to find a treatment suitable for your health needs.
At GIA Miami, we are more than happy to welcome you to our center and help you overcome this challenging mental health condition. We believe that everyone deserves to live a meaningful life, and we never hesitate to do our best to improve the well-being of the people who knock on our doors.
Our incredible and compassionate team is on hand to design a treatment right for you, answer your questions, and walk with you throughout this process.
If you would like to learn more about transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy (TMS) or how to treat depression, call us on 561.462.4099. We are available 24-hours a day!
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