Though Clinical Depression is a mental health illness, its symptoms and accompanying conditions can affect all parts of the body. Individuals with Clinical Depression experience physical and medical health problems that range from mild to life-threatening. Some of these issues are direct symptoms of depression, while others arise because of depression’s effect on your diet, sleeping habits, and lifestyle. No matter what, the physical and medical problems that accompany depression are serious issues. Without professional help, these problems only get worse.
Fortunately, getting help for your Clinical Depression also treats the physical symptoms of depression. Learn more about the ways that Clinical Depression can lead to physical and medical problems—and how a Licensed Clinical Psychologist can help—with this guide.
Problems With the Digestive System
Clinical Depression affects appetite, nutritional habits, and the performance of the digestive system. There are several ways for depression to harm digestion, all of which result in serious consequences if left untreated.
One issue stems from the fact that many people develop negative eating habits in an attempt to cope with the negative emotions and experiences of depression. Individuals who overeat or binge on food because of depression can experience the health problems associated with overeating, such as obesity or type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand, you might lose your appetite and eat less because of depression. This can lead to malnutrition, fatigue, and other issues. Poor nutritional habits cause stomachaches, cramps, constipation, and other issues in the digestive system. These changes in eating behavior can also lead to the development of an Eating Disorder, which in turn creates its own dangerous physical and medical issues.
Those with depression have elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. The close link between stress and Clinical Depression creates a greater risk for heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. Increased stress hormones speed up heart rate and cause blood vessels to tighten. These prolonged effects of stress create dangerous issues throughout the cardiovascular system.
Some depression-related cardiovascular issues also stem from the poor nutrition discussed above. Weight gain from unhealthy eating behaviors can lead to raised blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a greater risk of heart disease.
Depression does more than simply cause cardiovascular issues. Individuals with Clinical Depression are also at a greater risk of dying after a heart attack. The physical, mental, and medical stress of depression leave the body more vulnerable to heart disease and increase mortality rates for those who experience cardiovascular issues.
Many of the physical and medical problems associated with Clinical Depression revolve around the brain and the central nervous system. For example, headaches and migraines are common symptoms of depression.
Other issues stem from abnormal functioning in neurotransmitters. Serotonin levels are a significant example of this. As one of the body’s most essential neurotransmitters, serotonin modulates the neural activities that affect a wide range of neuropsychological processes. Clinical Depression can create lower levels of serotonin, which in turn lowers pain tolerance and makes you more sensitive to back pain and other body aches. Altered serotonin levels are also associated with changes in sleep patterns, sex drive, and more.
Insomnia and the Effects of Sleep Problems
Both the physical and mental symptoms of Clinical Depression can keep you awake at night. Depression affects rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is necessary for a good night’s rest. Without proper REM sleep, individuals with depression have trouble sleeping to the point of developing a sleep disorder.
Insomnia and other sleep disorders are more than just a restless night, though. Insomnia can lead to low energy levels, weight gain, and more. Fatigue caused by disturbed sleep patterns can also negatively affect neurotransmitter function. A lack of sleep also negatively affects the body’s immune system and leaves you more vulnerable to disease.
Long-term sleep deprivation creates even more physical and medical issues. For example, weight gain from low energy levels can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, and other weight-related issues. Severe insomnia or other long-term sleep problems are also linked with certain types of cancer.
Chronic Pain and Other Non-Specific Somatic Issues
One of the difficult aspects of physical depression symptoms is that they are frequently non-specific and untreatable by pain medications and similar treatment methods. Depression-related somatic issues affect the entire body and can become debilitating without treatment. Examples of these severe yet non-specific symptoms include:
- Chronic pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
These issues won’t go away until you address the source of the issue: your depression. Without treatment from a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, chronic pain and other physical issues will worsen over time.
Problems With the Immune System
Many of the issues mentioned above—such as weight loss or gain, disruptions to sleep patterns, and more—weaken your body’s immune system. Moreover, stress caused by depression and its symptoms puts you at greater risk of certain diseases. For example, prolonged levels of stress created by an increase in cortisol and adrenaline can lead to heart disease, gastric ulcers, and certain types of cancer.
Stress can also lead to chronic inflammation and other inflammatory conditions or autoimmune disorders, all of which leave the body vulnerable to disease.
The Cycle of Illness and Depression
Depression causes a wide variety of physical symptoms throughout the body. At the same time, pain, illness, and other medical conditions can worsen depression. Clinical Depression and its associated medical issues create a vicious cycle that worsens both your physical and mental state.
If you have depression, physical problems like the ones listed above can start as mild issues. However, failing to find treatment for your Clinical Depression allows these issues to worsen over time. As symptoms and health consequences become more severe, the pain of living with these issues also worsens. Physical pain and other symptoms can in turn exacerbate your depression. The resulting mental decline causes these physical and medical issues to worsen, and the cycle continues.
Professional Treatment Is the Key to Better Health
To treat the physical and medical consequences of Clinical Depression, you must treat the depression itself. Evidence-based treatment plans from a Licensed Clinical Psychologist cure the mental illness at the root of your health problems.
At Blair Wellness Group, we provide patients with tailored treatment plans based on proven therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy, and other evidence-based modalities. Achieve better mental and physical health with your personal therapy plans from a Depression Psychologist. Reach out to Blair Wellness Group today to find the help you need for a healthier and happier life.