10 Things You Didn’t Know Were Depression

10 Things You Didn’t Know Were Depression

You probably know that persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and withdrawal from social connections are common symptoms of major depressive disorder. But there are many other signs that you may not know are associated with the condition. At Amen Clinics, we see patients every day who complain about symptoms that they don’t realize are associated with the disorder. Based on our experience with tens of thousands of patients, here are 10 signs of depression that often go unrecognized. Do you have any of these?

1. Unexplained aches and pains.

Many of the patients we see complain of back pain, muscle soreness, headaches, or chest pain that isn’t related to a specific injury or activity and that doesn’t go away with treatment. In most cases, it never occurred to them that it might be related to depression. But research in CNS Drugsshows that approximately two-thirds of people with depression report unexplained physical pain. Our brain imaging work using SPECT technology shows that people who experience chronic pain tend to have high activity in a part of the brain called the limbic system. When there is too much activity in this area of the brain, it is also associated with depression.

2. Getting a lot of colds.

One of the things we notice in our depressed patients is that they tend to catch every cold or flu bug that’s going around. They are usually surprised to learn that depression may negatively impact your immune system, making you more susceptible to viruses and infections. It can also make it harder for you to fight off infections, which means it may take you longer to get over that cold.

3. Trouble concentrating.

When negative thoughts keep swirling in your head, it’s hard to stay focused on the task at hand. A 2014 study in Plos One found that aside from sad moods, concentration problems were one of the most common and debilitating symptoms among depressed people. In our clinics, we see many people who think their problems with focus are a sign of ADD/ADHD, but their brain scans show that it’s actually depression.

4. Feeling irritable.

Do you find yourself getting irritated at the smallest things your family, coworkers, or friends do? Are you feeling angry at the world? Research in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry shows there is a close relationship between anger and major depressive disorder. In our experience, people often don’t make the link between irritability and depression. That’s what happened with Chad. He came to see us because his wife said he needed to get anger management, or she would divorce him. She was tired of Chad getting mad at her and their kids for really insignificant things. When we scanned his brain, however, it was consistent with one of the 7 patterns of depression we have identified. Treating his depression helped him feel less annoyed and more accepting.

5. Being forgetful.

At Amen Clinics, many of the people we see who have memory issues are unaware that it may be related to depression. A growing body of scientific evidence shows that untreated depression significantly raises the risk of developing memory problems and cognitive impairment. For example, a 2015 study concluded that depression is associated with short-term memory loss. Other research has found that people who are depressed have a harder time recalling the intricate details of their lives, meaning you may remember general events but have trouble with the specifics.

6. You’re constipated.

At Amen Clinics, we know that physical health is tied to mental health, so we delve into our patients’ overall wellbeing as part of our evaluations. People are often stunned to learn that having constipation is linked to depression. According to a 2011 report, 22% of constipated people studied showed symptoms of severe depression and 13% had borderline depression levels.

7. Feeling numb.

Some people we see don’t think they’re depressed because they don’t feel sad or weepy. One woman, Sarah, said she didn’t feel much of anything at all and was basically devoid of any emotion. She wasn’t even sad about her child’s high school graduation. “It’s just the next step in life,” she said flatly. She mistook her lack of emotion as a sign of strength. When you don’t feel anything no matter what happens in your life, it can be a sign of depression.

8. Feeling tired all the time.

These days, it seems like everybody’s perpetually tired. The majority of our depressed patients say they feel exhausted, but they often blame it on something else like not getting enough sleep. When you’re depressed, it takes so much extra effort just to get through your day, it can leave you feeling wiped out.

9. Feeling restless.

For some people with depression, the idea of relaxing or having nothing on your calendar can induce stress and anxiety. Our patients often say that downtime is just that—a time when the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) infest their brains and make them feel down. For example, Shailene thought she was just a type-A go-getter who liked to feel productive at all times and didn’t realize that her need to fill up her time was really just a way to avoid the negativity that would creep in when she wasn’t busy.

10. Feeling like you’re “faking it.”

Some of our patients say they feel like they’re wearing a mask during the day, trying to appear cheerful and motivated. This can be a sign of “smiling depression,” in which people look like the picture of success on the outside, but they feel empty inside. 

If you’re experiencing any of these issues, it’s a good idea to investigate if it might be a sign of depression.

At Amen Clinics, we take a unique brain-body approach to diagnosis and treatment that includes brain SPECT imaging, as well as laboratory testing to check physical health, and other important factors that could be contributing to symptoms. By getting to the root cause of your symptoms, we can create a more effective, personalized treatment plan for you.

If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health, overcome their symptoms, and improved their quality of life at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.


  1. I know I have low grade depression..I have for years but what what really gets to me is the faking it part..When I can feel things it is such a blessing..

    Comment by linda belthius — April 27, 2020 @ 10:01 AM

  2. I only had nine of the ten symptoms. It could have been worse!!!

    Comment by Roy Nichols — April 28, 2020 @ 4:12 PM

  3. Do you help anyone from canada. Is it possible to have a phone appt with a dr and they can help you with supplements I cant take antidepressants it’s horrible the side effects . How much do you charge for appt if this is possible to have one. Tks

    Comment by Darlene Goguen — May 4, 2020 @ 7:37 AM

  4. I don’t understand why, in states like Oregon where assisted suicide is legal, that an individual cannot choose to peacefully end his or her life if they have lived with chronic, lifelong depression. If it is something persistent throughout life and often fatal anyway, it seems it should be included in right to die legalisms. Sometimes, there is just no help for it. Why should someone have to endure a lifetime of misery?

    Comment by AJ — May 4, 2020 @ 8:01 PM

  5. I have struggled with severe, recurrent, depression for over 50yrs. I have researched my illness thoroughly, & have learned various strategies that can help over the years, & am reasonably happy in-between bouts. I find that realizing it may take time to get better, depending on the severity & cause of a bout, helps, no matter how tough the going gets. I am just learning to “let go” of the past, & how to better cope with my emotional reactions, which is absolutely what causes my depression, every time. I would recommend the use of self-hypnosis tapes. The Amen Clinics info’ blogs are exceptionally good, & I wish I had learned of them many years ago. Please keep up your good work, & consider setting up in the UK too.

    Comment by Lyn Bowler (UK) — May 9, 2020 @ 4:11 AM

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