As of 2012, depression affects around 18 million people in the United States, which accounts for 9.5 percent of the country’s population. Depression is a serious mental disorder that can cause a lot of emotional anguish and stress. It affects the balance of chemicals in your brain and can take a toll on your body too. It comes as no surprise then to see that depression can also seriously affect your health.
Let’s discuss how depression affects health in three ways- by triggering physical symptoms, increasing the risk of certain health conditions, and affecting medical illnesses that are already present.
Physical symptoms of depression
The effects of depression are not limited to the mind. The condition can also cause the following physical symptoms:
- Chronic fatigue
- Reduced appetite and sex drive
- Lack of deep sleep, oversleeping, or insomnia
- Increased pain and aches in various parts of the body; this happens to two-thirds of depression patients
As mentioned before, depression changes the way the brain behaves and causes chemical imbalances. These changes have effects on other systems of the body. For example, low levels of a chemical called serotonin can change your body’s pain threshold, making you more sensitive to pain in your body, especially in certain areas like your back. The serotonin levels in your body can also affect your sex drive and sleeping habit.
Effect of depression on risk of health problems
Depression causes physical health problems and also increases the risk of certain illnesses and conditions. It does this by increasing your body’s level of adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones.
This affects the immune system and makes it harder for it to fight off infections and lowers the effect of vaccinations. Depression is known to increase the risk of heart disease and its associated problems.
Effect of depression on pre-existing conditions
Depression patients are more likely to develop complications in their existing health conditions. This happens because the physical changes in the body are magnified by the mental disorder. For example, high-stress hormone levels caused by depression can cause complications in people suffering from heart disease.
Depression also causes difficulties in following treatment plans, causing complications or relapses. In fact, it is because of such factors that depression patients have a higher mortality due to heart attacks. The chronic physical pain associated with depression can also complicate existing medical problems in a patient.
On a positive note, the close link between depression and all these health issues means that depression treatment can also improve your overall health and contribute towards the treatment of health conditions.