Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Illness, Pain, Anxiety and Depression

Depression and Bodily Complaints

Depression is not an emotional problem; it is a brain disorder that affects the chemicals that transmit signals between brain cells. It effects mood and bodily function.

Depression can be triggered by a workers’ attempts to adjust to limitations imposed by injury.

Multiple areas of the brain are affected by depression. Some anti-depressant medications target one brain area more than another. Symptoms often tell us which anti-depressant should be used.

When depression continues untreated, however, very specific areas of the brain begin to shrink. Each subsequent depressive episode is easier to trigger than the last.

Since the brain regulates the rest of the body, multiple bodily organs become involved in the depressed patient.

Many people with depression feel pain or other physical symptoms. These may include:

Headaches: these are fairly common in people with depression. If you already had migraine headaches, they may become worse when you are depressed.

Back pain: if you already suffer with back pain, it likely will worsen when you become depressed.

Muscle aches and joint pain: depression can make any kind of chronic pain worse.

Chest pain: chest pain can also be associated with depression.

Digestive problems: nausea, diarrhea or chronic constipation.

Exhaustion and fatigue: arising from bed in the morning may seem very hard, even impossible regardless of the number of hours spent in bed.

Sleeping problems: many depressed patients cannot sleep well. They awaken early and cannot fall asleep when they go to bed.

Change in appetite or weight: some people with depression lose their appetite and lose weight. Others find they crave certain foods — like carbohydrates — and gain weight.

Dizziness or lightheadedness.

How serious are the physical problems associated with depression? A recent article (Yoichi, C and Stemptoe, A. (2008) Positive psychological well-being and mortality: a quantitative review of prospective observational studies. Psychosomatic Medicine, 20: 741-756) notes that death rates from cardiovascular disease and with kidney failure are reduced in those who are psychologically well-functioning, increased in those who are depressed.

Depression is a health problem, but it is also a health risk.

Postponing an injured workers’ access to care for depression may, in fact, slow physical recovery from injury damage.

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