When people think of mental illness or any sort of psychological disorder, the “psychological” part is what stands out most. Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression may seem to some as something purely psychological, but there are numerous physical symptoms of mental illness that are often overlooked. In this article, we will look at some of these symptoms more closely.
A common symptom with anxiety and depression, physical exhaustion may cause one to feel lethargic and unmotivated. With depression, fatigue most likely comes from nonrestorative sleep. Even though someone may get a full night’s rest, they may still feel tired during the day.
For people with anxiety, fatigue has a different source. Someone with an anxiety disorder is under near-constant emotional stress, so extra energy is devoted to the body’s stress management system. Because of this, people with anxiety may frequently feel out of energy even moments after a restful sleep.
Shortness of Breath
People with anxiety and panic disorder tend to feel short of breath often, usually due to extreme stress. During an anxiety or panic attack, the body releases adrenaline into the bloodstream, which makes the heart beat faster and forces the lungs to take in shorter, quicker breaths. Sometimes, the body begins to breathe out of sync, and when inhaling the vocal cords close instead of open. This is called “paradoxical vocal fold movement”. This can make people with anxiety feel short of breath all the time, regardless of the situation they’re in.
Aches and Pains
When the body is under stress and fatigue, muscles may begin to feel achy or the body may experience pain. With depression and anxiety, pain acts as the body’s way of telling you something is wrong. While they may not be experiencing physical ailments, someone under intense stress for long periods of time will eventually adapt and become used to the stress.
Thus, they will ignore the brain’s signals that something is wrong. If the brain can’t do it, the body will, and the central nervous system begins sending pain signals to notify someone that they are under stress and need to take care of themselves. For example, if you haven’t eaten in a while, you may begin to experience abdominal pain because you have gotten used to the feeling of hunger.
Decreased Pain Tolerance
Alongside experiencing pain throughout the body, it is common for people with depression to have decreased pain tolerance as well. As a result, people with depression may feel increased levels of pain even when they suffer a minor injury--say, stubbing their toe.
While the cause of this is not yet proven, the correlation between pain and depression exists: in a recent study, researchers found that people with depression have typically lower pain thresholds, but also experience chronic pain. Because of this, chronic pain may be linked to depression and vice versa.
If you or a loved one is suffering from an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder, speak with your primary care physician as soon as possible. You are not alone in your experiences.
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