Depression is technically a mental disorder but also affects your physical health. It may impact everything from your heart, kidney, nervous system, and immune system health. Depression is technically a mental disorder but also affects your physical health. It may impact everything from your heart, kidney, nervous system, and immune system health.
What is depression?
Clinical depression, especially left untreated, can interrupt your day-to-day life and cause a ripple effect of additional symptoms.
Major depression (a more advanced form of depression) is considered a serious medical condition that may dramatically affect your quality of life.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DMS-5)Trusted Source says that to qualify for a diagnosis of major depression, a person has to experience at least five symptoms for longer than two weeks.
Effects of depression on the central nervous system
Depression can cause a lot of symptoms within the central nervous system, many of which are easy to dismiss or ignore.
Older adults may also have difficulty identifying cognitive changes because it’s easy to dismiss the signs of depression as related to “getting older.”
According to the American Psychological Association, older adults with depression have more difficulties with memory loss and reaction time during everyday activities compared with younger adults with depression.
Symptoms of depression include overwhelming sadness, grief, and a sense of guilt. It may be described as a feeling of emptiness or hopelessness. Some people may find it difficult to put these feelings into words.
It may also be difficult for them to understand as symptoms can manifest and cause physical reactions. Frequent episodes of crying may be a symptom of depression, although not everyone cries if they’re depressed.
You may also feel tired all the time or have trouble sleeping at night. Other symptoms include:
Irritability anger loss of interest in things that used to bring pleasure Headaches.
There may also be chronic body aches, and the pain may not respond to medication. This is also sometimes an effect of certain neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.
People with depression may have trouble maintaining a typical work schedule or fulfilling social obligations. This could be due to symptoms like an inability to concentrate, memory problems, and difficulty making decisions.
Some people who are depressed may turn to alcohol or substance misuse, which may increase instances of unsafe behavior.
Someone with depression may consciously avoid talking about how they feel or try to mask the problem. People experiencing depression may also find themselves preoccupied with thoughts of death or hurting themselves.
Effects of depression on the digestive system
While depression is often thought of as a mental health condition, it also plays a heavy role in appetite and nutrition. Some people cope by overeating or bingeing. This can lead to weight gain and obesity-related conditions like type 2 diabetes.
You may even lose your appetite entirely or fail to eat the right amount of nutritious food. A sudden loss of interest in eating in older adults can lead to a condition called geriatric anorexia.
Eating problems can lead to symptoms that include:
Medication may not improve these symptoms if a person doesn’t eat the correct diet. Sweets and foods high in carbohydrates may provide immediate relief, but the effects are often temporary.
It’s important to maintain a healthy diet when experiencing depression. Nutrients are essential to making sure the body’s neurotransmitters are firing right.
Effects of depression on the cardiovascular and immune systems
Depression and stress are closely related. Stress hormones speed heart rate and make blood vessels tighten, putting your body in a prolonged state of emergency. Over time, this can lead to heart disease.
Recurrence of cardiovascular problems is linked more closely to depression than to other conditions like:
high blood pressure
People ages 40-79 living with mild-to-major depression have a higher riskTrusted Source of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) for a period of 10 years. Younger people 20-39 years old have a higher lifetime risk of developing CVD.
Depression and stress may also have a negative impact on the immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections and diseases.
ResearchTrusted Source shows there may be a relationship between inflammation and depression, although the exact connection is unclear.
Inflammation is linked to many health problems. Some anti-inflammatory agents have been shown to benefit some people with depression.
Depression in children and teens
Depression may be more difficult to detect in children who can’t articulate their symptoms.
You may want to look out for behaviors that include persistent clinginess, worry, and unwillingness to attend school without improvement over time. Children may also be excessively irritable and negative.
In addition, teens are particularly susceptible to depression.
About 4.1 million adolescents ages 12-17 in the U.S. had at least one episode of depression in 2020, which is about 17%Trusted Source. It’s more common in adolescent females and adolescents who self-identified as belonging to two or more races.
Symptoms of depression in teens may include:
unusually poor grades
excessive use of social media or computer games
notable, negative change in behavior at home or at school
Does depression cause permanent brain damage?
Scans of the brain of people living with depression show significant changes in areas of the brain like the frontal lobe, hippocampus, temporal lobe, and amygdala.
Is depression a chemical imbalance?
A chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin, can play a role in depression, but the causes of the condition are often more complex.
Other factors that play a role are:
genetic history of depression
substance use disorders (SUD)
other medical conditions
environmental factors like trauma
Learn more about the causes of depression.
Depression is a mental health disorder that can also have an impact on your physical health. It may affect your cardiovascular and digestive systems and your immune system.
In addition, it can significantly negatively impact your quality of life. If you or someone you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, know that help is available.
It’s good to speak with your doctor and see a counselor or psychologist. If someone is contemplating suicide, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 as soon as possible.