The Physical Impact of Depression or Anxiety
People can often experience aches and pains without any apparent cause, or be more susceptible to the coughs and cold bugs that always seem to be going around – particularly early on in an academic year: the notorious freshers’ flu! Physical symptoms associated with anxiety are perhaps more well-known, such as flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation, or frequent urination. Additionally, being aware of chest discomfort, feeling nauseous and sweating are also often reported.
It is important to stress that no physical symptom lasting more than a week should be self-diagnosed or dismissed – be sure to get long term, persistent changes checked with your GP.
However, assuming you have done this, and there are no other explanations for your physical symptoms, it may be time to discuss the possibility of psychological causes for your symptoms with a counsellor. At this point, some self-help strategies can be important.
It is also important to acknowledge, however, that simply because there isn’t a physical explanation for a physical symptom, that doesn’t make it any less real or important. If you feel nauseous because of anxiety, the feeling of nausea is just as real as if it were, say, a gastric infection – nausea is nausea, whatever the cause.
It is all too easy to pass off physical health problems with “oh, it’s just depression”, or “it’s just anxiety”. There is no “just” in it: our physical and mental health have equal importance.
Monitoring your daily routines
Daily habits to do with sleep, eating, exercise, alcohol- and drug-consumption, relaxation and socialising do not operate in isolation – eating and exercise can affect sleep patterns, and sleep patterns can in turn affect motivation for exercise or socialising, for example.
A very useful first step is to use a ‘daily routine diary’ to keep a record of your sleep, eating, exercise, alcohol- and drug-consumption, relaxation habits, and social contact over the course of a week.
Although this is a time-consuming task, it can provide you with some useful (and sometimes surprising) information about how your daily habits are affecting you. Individual worksheets are available that focus on each of the daily habits.