Depression involves a combination of emotional and physical symptoms. Some experts believe that the imbalance of brain chemicals that leads to depression can also affect how a person experiences physical pain. Many people with depression suffer from chronic pain or other physical symptoms, including

  • headaches,
  • back pain,
  • muscle aches,
  • joint pain,
  • fatigue,
  • insomnia,
  • dizziness, and
  • weight changes.

Some researchers believe that being depressed can make you feel pain more intensely than other people. If you suffered from any kind of chronic pain before you became depressed, it can become stronger after the onset of depressive symptoms.

Depression can also slow down your digestion, which can result in constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Sometimes people don't realize that their physical symptoms may be caused by depression and don't seek help. Treating your depression—with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two—may go a long way toward resolving physical symptoms, and, conversely, treating physical pain may help relieve depression.

Some antidepressant medications—including duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor)—address physical as well as mood-related symptoms. Certain types of psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) also can teach you ways to more effectively cope with the pain.

Publication Review By: Karen L. Swartz, M.D.

Published: 20 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 20 Aug 2013