Vegetative Symptoms of Depression in Children and Adults

Not All Depressed People Have Vegetative Symptoms

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Vegetative functions are basic bodily processes, such as eating, sleeping, feeling pleasure, menstruation and elimination. Vegetative dysfunction is often associated with depression, and has the ability to negatively impact a person's ability to function in everyday life.

Vegetative Symptoms

Vegetative symptoms of depression are the physical symptoms and they may include:

  • Loss of Appetite. Typically, loss of appetite leads to weight loss in many people. Loss of appetite or weight loss should not be better explained by any other physical or mental disorder that a person may have.

  • Inability to Experience Pleasure. Also called anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure is a hallmark vegetative symptom of depression. In young children, anhedonia is seen as an inability to experience pleasure from age-appropriate play. However, by young adulthood, anhedonia may be seen as a decreased interest in a variety of realms, including sex.
  • Sleeping Difficulties. This can include difficulty falling asleep and/or awakening too early in the morning. Again, the person's sleep issues must not be better explained by another physical or mental illness.
  • Changes in Bowel Patterns. Depression may be associated with episodes of constipation, which are not better explained by another disorder.

These symptoms are extremely common in people who are depressed or have other mood disorders like anxiety or bipolar disorder.

Vegetative Symptoms and Depression

It is important to know that not all depressed people will have all or any of these vegetative symptoms.

Although it is less common, sometimes depression is associated with an increased appetite, weight gain, and an increased need for sleep. When people experience these types of vegetative symptoms, it is referred to as atypical depression.  A person with atypical depression may also have moods that are strongly reactive to environmental circumstances and feel extremely sensitive to rejection.

Symptoms of Depression in Children

Depression has other symptoms besides just vegetative ones. Here are signs to watch for in your child:

  • Changes in grades or school work
  • Increased isolation from friends and family
  • Feelings of sadness and/or low self-worth
  • Eating either more or less than before
  • Frequent irritability or anger
  • Having a hard time sleeping and/or focusing
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleeping more or less than before or significant changes in sleeping patterns
  • Thinking or talking about death or suicide
  • Crying more than normal
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring pleasure

What To Do If You or Your Child Are Experiencing Vegetative Symptoms

If you are experiencing any of these vegetative symptoms of depression, you should visit your family physician for a checkup. It is possible that these symptoms may be due to some other illness, such as hypothyroidism, which can mimic some of the atypical symptoms of depression like weight gain and fatigue. If other causes for these symptoms are not found, your doctor may wish to refer you to a mental health professional for further assessment and treatment.

If you are concerned about any of your child's behaviors or feelings, talk to her pediatrician. Depression treatments can significantly reduce vegetative and other physical symptoms of depression.


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