Depression is one of the most prominent mental health disorders in the United States. In 2020, an estimate of about 21 million adults in the US had at least a major depressive episode. A person with depression experiences low mood, loss of interest in daily activities, feelings of sadness and guilt, and loss of pleasure in activities that formerly gave pleasure. These feelings usually last for more than two weeks. They also experience reduced levels of energy and motivation. Other symptoms of depression may also include problems with sleep, loss of appetite, trouble concentrating, and self-esteem issues. In this blog, you will find out how depression can affect your physical health and how to get therapy.
Common Health Impacts of Depression
Depression results from changes in brain chemistry; these changes do not only affect one’s mental well-being. Depression can also increase the risk of having other medical conditions and physical symptoms; it can also worsen the health of persons who already have a medical condition that they are living with. How depression affects health can be seen in the following ways:
Chronic Pain: People with Depression may experience pain, which sometimes progresses to become chronic. Some common pain sites include limbs, joints, and the lower back. Chronic pains usually persist for more than three months. How depression affects health through pain may include recurrent headaches, migraines, and arthritis.
Digestive Disorders: Depression can result in challenges associated with the digestive system. Some of these digestive disorders include bloating, constipation, nausea, and diarrhea.
Fatigue: Another common way depression impacts health is the general feeling of tiredness and fatigue that most people with depression experience. Persons with depression most times do not feel well-rested even after they have slept. Fatigue is one of the most challenging physical symptoms of depression to treat. It can also worsen depression in most people.
Changes in Weight and Appetite: Persons with Depression are also at risk of extreme changes and fluctuations in their appetite. They may eat more than they usually do or eat less. Usually, people living with depression often report losing weight or gaining weight unintentionally. Persons with depression may attempt to use food to suppress their feelings of depression, known as emotional eating. Weight loss can also be extreme as some persons with depression may experience severe loss of appetite, digestive disorders, or lack of motivation to prepare meals.
Reduced Immunity: Depression also can result in reduced immunity levels. When the immune system is weak, there is a risk of infections and complications that may be harder to treat. A possible explanation is that people with depression may experience a higher stress level, and increased stress is associated with weak immunity.
High Blood Pressure: Increased blood pressure (hypertension) can also result from depression, a risk factor for other health challenges such as strokes and heart attacks. When persons go through a depressive episode, they experience prolonged episodes of stress, resulting in high blood pressure.
Insomnia: Insomnia refers to having difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep and is a common challenge experienced by persons with depression. Insomnia can affect how one functions during the day, as adequate sleep is necessary for normal daily functioning. Reduced sleep also leads to fatigue, low energy levels, increased stress, and irritability.
Psychomotor Symptoms: How depression affects health may include perceiving one’s thoughts and movements as sluggish, unable to sit still, or moving at a different pace. Persons with depression may also feel restless, fidgety, and more agitated. These psychomotor symptoms affect day-to-day functioning.
Other impacts of depression on health may also be due to the side effects of the medications being used. These side effects, usually mild, may include dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, and fatigue.
Why Physical Health Effects of Depression Matter
How depression can impact physical health may often be ignored in caring for people with depression. However, it is essential to address the health impacts of depression to speed up recovery and make care more holistic. Also, seeking help to manage depression early may prevent physical symptoms such as chronic pain, reduced immunity, and high blood pressure. If you experience any of these effects of depression, it is crucial to inform your care provider so that they can factor this in while planning your treatment.
Getting Treatment for Depression
Depression can be managed using approaches that involve medication use and different forms of psychotherapy. Common psychotherapeutic approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and psychodynamic therapy. These therapy approaches can be individual, family, or group therapy.
At Satori Health, we offer comprehensive health services and adequate treatment options to help people with depression optimize their health and mental well-being. Contact us today to learn more about available mental health treatment in the San Fernando Valley.