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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 May, 2005, 23:19 GMT 00:19 UK
Physical depression ails ignored
Image of a woman in pain
Half of people with depression have general aches and pains
Although most people with depression have physical symptoms, few discuss them with their doctor, a survey shows.

More than eight out of 10 will experience fatigue and nearly the same number will have difficulty sleeping, the Depression Alliance found.

Yet only two-thirds will raise these issues with their doctor.

Doctors urged any person who thought they might be depressed to seek help, and said treatments were available that were extremely effective.

Hidden problem

The survey of 644 people with depression revealed that patients appear to be particularly reluctant to discuss some symptoms with their doctor.

What is important is getting diagnosed. Depression is very treatable
Dr Graham Archard, vice chair of the Royal College of GPs

For example, only 14% of those experiencing sexual dysfunction, which was nearly half of all patients, discussed this with their doctor.

A large international study found that 43% of patients with depression experience general aches and pains, which is four times higher than in those who had not been diagnosed with depression.

A previous survey by the Depression Alliance found even among the 33% of patients who actually discussed aches and pains with their doctor, almost half said that their doctor did not explain that they can be symptoms of depression.

A spokeswoman from Depression Alliance said: "In the survey, 99% of the people we talked to listed one or more physical symptoms, and of them, 85% believed their quality of life would be remarkably improved if these symptoms could be managed.

"But at the same time, those physical symptoms are much less often discussed with their doctors.

"It's important that they do. There are treatments that can help."

Physical symptoms of depression
Disrupted sleep
Poor appetite/weight loss
General aches and pains
Sexual dysfunction/loss of libido
Source: Depression Alliance

Dr Graham Archard, vice chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Physical symptoms are very common with depression. But the vast majority of people who come in with aches and pains will not have depression."

He said if person was depressed and had aches an pains that were linked to this, they should be told about this by their doctor and reassured that it is perfectly normal and common with the condition.

"What is important is getting diagnosed. Depression is very treatable.

"If you think you are depressed, go and see your doctor. Don't be shy. It is not abnormal to suffer from depression and there are lots of things that we can do to help.

"Treating the depression will help alleviate the physical symptoms too."

One in five people will be affected by depression at some stage in their life. The charity has launched an on-line service providing materials and links to information on depression.

20 Dec 00 |  Medical notes

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