The effects of depression on health

Updated March 23, 2017


Depression is a serious illness that interferes with daily activities, and can lead to pain and suffering for the patient and those who care for him. While depression is a mental disorder, it can take a toll on the physical health of the patient as well. The mental health charity Mind reports that there are several forms of depression that affect mental and physical health. Major depression disorder is a crippling condition that interferes with all aspects of daily life, from work and relationships to physical health and pleasurable activities. Psychotic depression can cause hallucinations and a break with reality, while postnatal depression affects new mothers and their ability to care for their children. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) results in depression during winter months when daylight is restricted. Bipolar disorder, also called manic depression, is characterised by mood swings of elevated highs and depressive lows.

Mental health

Untreated depression can lead to feelings of guilt and remorse and cause additional anxiety. People with severe depression are more likely to harm themselves and are at risk of suicide. Feelings of pessimism are exaggerated in those suffering from depression, leading to further irritability and frustration. Depression results in reduced memory capacity and the inability to concentrate. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in America report that depression often leads to further emotional, legal and financial difficulties. In an effort to self-medicate, many people suffering from persistent depressive symptoms can turn to drugs or alcohol for relief.

Physical health

Depression can cause sleeplessness that leads to physical fatigue, a tiredness that cannot be relieved by rest. Lack of motivation leads to reduced muscle tone and endurance and muscle atrophy. Appetite is often affected by depression and can lead to overeating and obesity, or loss of appetite and malnutrition or anaemia. Many people who are depressed experience persistent pain in the form of headaches, cramps or digestive disorders that don't respond to treatment. Depression can lead to high blood pressure and chronic heart disease, report doctors at the Mayo Clinic. Doctors at Johns Hopkins report that patients with anxiety and depression are twice as likely to have other physical ailments that are made worse because of the mental illness. Diseases that are exacerbated by depression include arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, lung disease, allergies and migraine headaches.

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About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."