Depression can have severe effects on your mental well-being and your physical health. It can cause chronic illness and pain, put you at risk of developing a substance abuse disorder, give rise to self-destructive behaviors, erode your personal relationships, and shorten your lifespan.
Untreated depression is a heavy burden with far-reaching consequences. Here’s what you should know about its potential health effects, and how our team at EXIS Recovery can help you find real, meaningful relief — and improved health — with the right approach to your care.
Feelings of sadness, anger, isolation, inadequacy, disinterest, and defeat can undermine your brain’s ability to regulate your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Over time, as these negative and overwhelming feelings disrupt your normal patterns of existence, you may experience issues such as a sleep disorder, an eating disorder, or substance abuse.
The link between depression and sleep disruption is well-established. An estimated three in four adults with depression have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia), and two in five young adults with depression experience excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia).
Even in the absence of depression, a perpetual lack of sleep can launch a relentless cycle of fatigue, poor concentration, and frustration. When sleep problems are a product of depression, lack of rest only serves to compound your existing symptoms and sustain the troubling cycle.
Disrupted eating patterns are a common facet of persistent depression for many people, which helps explain why a change in body weight — excessive weight gain or substantial weight loss — is a common symptom of depression.
When depression causes you to use food as a coping mechanism or lose interest in preparing or eating food all together, you’re more likely to develop an eating disorder that puts you at risk of nutritional deficiencies and other worrisome health problems.
Persistent depression can lead to a substance abuse disorder when you self-medicate by trying to alleviate your symptoms through drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs.
Even though substance abuse can be a dangerous and defeating effect of depression, many depressed people who develop an addiction disorder don’t realize they have a problem — and they don’t necessarily realize that they’re self-medicating in order to ease their depression.
Untreated depression is a threat to your physical health, too, and that threat increases as time goes on. As an ever-growing body of scientific research reveals, people who are depressed are more likely to experience ongoing pain, reduced immunity, and a higher risk of chronic illness.
Persistent depression can change the way you experience pain. Minor aches and pains that you could have easily handled when you were healthy can become intense focal points when you’re depressed, effectively creating the foundation for a future chronic pain condition.
Depression can also make it harder to exert yourself and recover from exertion, even after an activity that isn’t strenuous or taxing for the average person. To put it another way, depression can give rise to chronic fatigue that’s disproportional to the energy you actually exert.
When depression progresses unchecked, it can suppress your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to acute illness as well as chronic disease.
Reduced immunity may mean that you catch viral infections like the common cold more easily, or it may mean that it takes longer for you to recover. It can also mean you have a greater risk of developing a more serious health threat like heart disease.
Researchers have found an apparent two-way connection between cardiovascular health and mental health. People with no previous history of depression have a greater risk of becoming depressed following a heart attack, while people with a history of depression have an increased risk of having a heart attack or developing heart disease.
For some people, untreated depression can become a terminal illness. As the most devastating consequence of depression, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States, and the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults ages 10-34.
Despite its serious health effects, depression remains vastly underdiagnosed in the United States. Currently, only about half of the people who suffer from the condition receive treatment.
Even so, depression is a highly treatable disorder. The comprehensive approach — one that’s based on evidence-based practices like cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes — can help most people achieve sustainable symptom relief.
As seasoned mental health experts who are dedicated to helping teens and adults find lasting relief from the damaging symptoms of depression, the team at EXIS Recovery knows that treating depression is the best way to prevent the multitude of health effects that come with it.
Call our West Los Angeles office at 424-244-3513 to learn more, or use the online booking tool to schedule an appointment today.