Why does depression hurt physically?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Steely, Nov 12, 2008.

  1. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    I just came out of a serious week long bout of depression, and yesterday and today my body hurts so badly I can barely move. Every muscle, every joint just aches.

    I have noticed this pattern more and more with myself. When I have a serious depression, than I have another week of serious physical pain. There is no physical explanation, except I may sleep more when I am depressed - but I am still working, taking care of the house, etc. So it is not like I am in bed for a week, and then getting up and trying to move around. But that is how it feels.

    Any ideas? Does this happen to you?
    I know the commercials say "depression hurts", but I don't really get what the actual physical explanation is for it. Why would that happen?
  2. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    I know what you mean, Steely. But I don't know why either. I know that it stinks and I hate those feelinhs of aches and pains all over when I'm already feeling mentally incapable of getting through the day - why physical pain as well?

    I think this really shows just how huge the connection is between our mental being and our physical...
  3. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Depression affects your ability to cope with pain; effectively causing you to feel more pain than an average person. There has been a lot of reasearch on this. Something to do with endorphins. Endorphins are actually natural pain relievers. That is why docs will tell you that exercise and movement is helpful for depression.
  4. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    One doctor explained it to Wynter that it has to do with the serotonin levels being off. She mentioned endorphins, too. When we exercise, we feel better because we get an endorphin release and we're not getting that when we're depressed.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I have had such bad depression I've been hosptialized, at one time, back when insurance was still good, for TEN weeks. The pain I felt was like a broken leg that wouldn't heal and couldn't be treated. I rememeber explaining it that way to my doctor. The mental pain was beyond any treatable pain I'd ever experienced. I had headaches, stomachaches, and aches and pains too. I didn't sleep so I was also achey from lack of sleep. But nothing matched the mental agony. And for me depression would last a year at a time until I found this medication combination that, strangely, is not considered the best but works for me. Sadly, I am so immobilized when depressed that I can barely get out of bed let alone force myself to exercise, but they made me do it in the hospital anyway and I was still depressed. I truly believe that depression is a physical disorder. You are not alone. Trust me. You are far from alone. I'm so glad you're feeling better now.
  6. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    You're not alone...I understand. I think our bodies and minds work so closely together that when one hurts, the other does, too. When I was having so much trouble with carpal tunnel, it was like all I could do was hold my hands still and cry, and not being able to do what I could normally do made me depressed, which made my hands hurt more, which made me more depressed...

    And this recent bout I'm just coming out of. I blew my knee out in June. It hurt to walk, to stand, even to sit if my leg wasn't positioned just right. I couldn't sleep more than a few hours at a time, because I'd kick and wake myself up because my leg hurt. I got depressed because I wasn't comfortable, which made things hurt more...

    What I'm not sure of is which comes first. Was I depressed, and that made me more sensitive to pain and affected my ability to heal? Or was it the physical injuries that caused the depression?
  7. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Personally, I don't buy into it that "depression hurts". I do believe that we don't take care of ourselves when we are depressed, and that we are tense and our muscles tense up, we grind our teeth, and don't sleep properly. It's like doing anaerobic exercise 24/7.

    I think that we do hurt, but it's not caused by the depression. And I believe that it's been an excellent excuse for doctors to refuse to diagnose and treat, or to maltreat women for decades. "Those hysterical women. There's nothing wrong with them."

    I'm not saying I doubt that you hurt. I know you do. I don't doubt that it's tied to your depression, just that it's a part of your depression. If that makes any sense.
  8. Steely

    Steely Active Member


    An interesting thing I noted, which could or could not have to do with anything.

    This morning when I posted I could barely walk without feeling pain. Today hour 2 into work, I still felt horrible. Hour 7 into work there was no pain, I actually forgot I had pain. Tonight I get home and sit down and the pain comes rushing back.

    That actually leaves me nowhere other than it is endorphines. I am running around work, putting out fires, and endorphines are spinning.........and I feel no pain. Right? But are they pain relievers, or is the lack of them when I am depressed, pain causers?

    A conundrum.
  9. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Maybe you're getting joint pain? I get awfully sore when I sit still, but walking around I usually start to feel better. I don't know whether it is loosening things up, or that I have something other than how much pain I'm in to think about...
  10. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Steely - If memory serves, you've mentioned muscle and/or joint pain in the past. Are you sure it's related to the depression or maybe you're just noticing it more because you're so focused inward?
  11. Pam R

    Pam R New Member

    Often when people are depressed they eat a lot of sweet things. Sugar is an inflammatory. It also raises beta endorphins. For a short time things won't hurt. But when the sugar wears off, you are worse off. And the vicious circle begins...

    True story:

    I've been off ALL sweeteners for nearly 7 yrs now. During the summer, my raw milk kefir got particularly sour, as it tends to in hot weather. So I thought, just 1 tablespoon of maple syrup to cut the sour. It worked out to about 1 teaspoon a day or so. By the end of the summer, my pain levels were through the roof. But I'd just been diagnosis'd with the Lyme (FINALLY!) and thought it was a re-infection symptom.

    Could not get to the Lyme doctor until the end of October. She explained, with drawings, exactly how it causes the pain. So I went home, stopped that tiny bit of sweet (which I no longer needed, it's mid autumn!) and within 5 days my pain levels dropped from 8-9 to 2.

    Just something to bear in mind.....

    Pam R.
  12. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    These are GREAT questions and I'm going to give it more thought. Surely, it might have something to do with neurotransmitters.
    This is why, although it seems counterintintuitive, as best as you are able, it is a good idea to get in some gentle exercise and to get in a little sun. We do know that exercise releases endorphins and that the sun gives us Vitamin D and perhaps other benefits. Too much exercise, too soon, is not good either. Exhaustion/fatigue can also lead to depression. It's really hard to do the right thing when we are in a depressed state, but pushing ourselves to just do a little something...10 minutes or so (whatever might be appropriate for each individual) can lead to a feeling of accomplishment and physical and psychological benefit. Just that little push, might be the beginning of the end to a downward spiral.
  13. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    I think the physical symptoms are a sign of a problem that may also be causing the depression, if that makes sense. Maybe whatever is causing the physical symptoms is also causing the neurotransmitters to be out of balance.

    I think doctors are too quick to give a mental reason for symptoms that they can't explain easily.

    By finding the cause of some physical symptoms (supposedly due to "anxiety") in my family, we have improved our mental health. I don't think it is a coincidence.
  14. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    I do know that when I took Lexapro and had a serious sinus infection that the pain from the infection was barely felt while taking the drug...but when I was off of it I could feel the pain more. So I think antidepressants can affect physical pain, in my opinion.

    Anyway, is interesting.
  15. briannafifield

    briannafifield New Member

    Hello, I'm new here and happened to stumble across this forum, and more specifically, this topic. I am a 21 year old divorcee with a two year old girl and I live with my parents. I have had a very long and complicated life, and long story short, I am very depressed. I am taking an antidepressant, but even after taking it, I had horrible depression today. After coming down from it, I feel so horrible, tired, and achy all over. I also am wondering why depression hurts too. I don't care what anyone else says, depression does hurt. I'm sorry to hear that Steely and all of the other members who replied to this topic feel and have felt such horrible depression. I figured this might be a good outlet for me, since I really don't have any friends or anyone to talk to.
  16. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    Welcome Brianna....wow this is a super old post from me :) Feel free to start a new one if you would like.
    I am so sorry you are feeling so depressed. What medications are you taking? How is your 2 yo?
    Yes, this board is a great outlet for anyone suffering from any mental illness. Welcome.
  17. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful


    I know this is an old post, but I'm going to respond anyway, although I'm not sure it will come out right.

    Of course I've been depressed since husband's death, situational depression, normalish.

    But I have this odd thing when I'm depressed and it's hard to figure out the chicken and the egg to it.....(which came first) My muscles tighten. Seriously. Even muscles I'm not normally aware I even have. At first it's achy, but it doesn't take long for it to become downright painful, really painful.

    My theory on the pain: anxiety triggered by depression. Although, like I said, I'm not sure which comes first. But they do seem to be tied together. The anxiety causes my muscles to tighten, the worse the anxiety.....the worse the pain because the worse the muscles knot up.

    I was in love with klonopin. The psychiatrist looked at me funny when I told him so. Then I added, it was the first time my upper back muscles had been relaxed in years. Soon as he took me off it 3 months later....they were one big knot again.
  18. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Lisa -
    A couple of thoughts...

    First, I think you're right about the chicken-and-egg connection between anxiety and muscle knots. therapist told me, once the knots start, they feed the anxiety cycle, subconsiously. Break the cycle by doing things that break the knots... but its hard, because it often means doing things that are outside the comfort zone. Like exercise... swimming, walking, stretching. And a hot bath, followed by gentle stretching. Anything you can do to reduce the muscle tension, will help drop the feedback loop. It doesn't deal with the original triggers - just the multiplier effect, if you know what I mean. But it cuts it "down to size".

    Second... because the muscle knots are so severe, see if the MD can give you a few muscle relaxants... even if just to take a small dose at bedtime on a bad day, it drops the knots enough to get you a better sleep... which then helps you cope better. Its not a sleeping pill (most of these are counter-productive anyway), and not a SSRI... as long as your system can handle the medications, its worth looking into.

    Third... write out your list of worries. Its stupid, but it helps. You'll discover a few that you can "toss" because they are extreme, and the rest are either action items, or concerns. The point is, you get it outside of your brain, and then park it for the night. This gets rid of the additional worry about forgetting something important (one of my big worry builders).

  19. buddy

    buddy New Member

    I dont know much about all the chemistry of it, but it makes sense. I do think it can go both ways...pain can cause depression, depression can cause pain...and that is a vicious cycle for sure.

    But I will just share, for what it is worth...I have a form of scleroderma and it was suggested in a support group that caffine increases pain or pain perception or whatever...but to stop it. I did and much of my pain is reduced. One thing that is ELIMINATED is monthly breast pain and reduced is cramps. At times when I have had caffine for whatever reason, I am slapped with the reality of it because I can barely have difficult child hug me.

    I also can't do artificial sweeteners. I always get headaches. Not overall pain increase but headaches. so....there are many factors.

    I hope you feel better soon. Worth checking everything out and this is really good question.