More than 17 million American adults had one or more major depressive episodes, according to 2017 data from the National Institute of Mental Health. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the US, and worldwide, more than 264 million people deal with depression.
While depression is considered a mental health disorder, its effects reach far beyond your mood, behavior, and mindset. Chronic depression can take a serious toll on your physical health, as well.
Allison Sikorsky, PMHNP, at At Your Service Psychiatry wants you to know that if you suffer from depression, understanding these effects can play a key role in helping you get the treatment you need to get your depression — and your life — under control.
Depression and your mental health
Clinical depression isn’t just “feeling blue.” Most people with depression have multiple mental health effects that can alter the way they view themselves and the world around them.
Feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem
People with clinical depression tend to have pervasive feelings of hopelessness. Because there’s no obvious basis for these feelings (like a death or other loss), they may also feel guilty, developing a sense of low self-esteem and low self-worth.
Problems controlling moods
Mood changes, including irritability, sadness, and anger, are common with chronic depression. These changes have a direct effect on a person’s ability to form close and long-lasting relationships with other people.
Increased risk of substance abuse
Clinical depression is linked to higher levels of substance abuse, possibly in an attempt to self-medicate or “escape” the feelings of failure, hopelessness, and low self-worth.
Depression and your physical health
The emotional and mental health consequences of untreated depression may be most familiar, but they’re hardly the only effects caused by depression. When you have chronic depression, your physical health can suffer as well.
Untreated depression causes stress that then affects your immune system. That means you’re more prone to colds, flu, and other illnesses. If you already have an acute or chronic illness, depression can make your symptoms worse, and it can also interfere with healing.
Research has also shown a link between depression and heart health. When you’re depressed or anxious, you can experience palpitations and other heart rhythm irregularities. Depression and anxiety prompt your body to release “stress hormones” that constrict your blood vessels and increase your blood pressure. Over time, these effects can increase your risks of both heart disease and heart attacks.
Depression can affect your appetite in different ways. Some people may find they have very little interest in food or in eating, while others may find they overeat in their quest to feel better. Many people with depression wind up with nutritional imbalances that can lead to additional health problems, in addition to causing symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and stomach pain.
As with appetite, sleep habits can have effects to either extreme if you suffer from depression. Some people can find it very difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, leaving them exhausted, cranky, and irritable during the day. Others may sleep an excessive amount in an attempt to escape from their depression symptoms.
Many people with untreated depression experience aching in their muscles and joints, even without other obvious causes. Depression can also make painful symptoms more severe, and it has even been associated with chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia.
Many people with depression find they have little or no interest in sex, and they may realized it’s nearly impossible to enjoy sex or to be stimulated sexually.
Get optimized care
If you suffer from depression, the key to feeling better and improving your health is to schedule an appointment with Dr. Sikorsky, psychiatric nurse practitioner, who can help you get the treatment you need.
Allison customizes therapy treatments based on each patient’s individual needs, so you can feel confident your care is optimized for you. Better still, with our state-of-the-art telemedicine system at At Your Service Psychiatry, you can have your appointment right in the comfort of your own home. Book your appointment online today.