Depression can have a profound impact on every aspect of your life.
Depression is one of the most common illnesses among Americans today. Mental Health America reports about 50 million American adults are experiencing a mental illness in 2022.
In this article, we’re exploring depression and why depression should be taken seriously.
Why Depression Should Be Taken Seriously
Depression rates were significantly high before the COVID-19 pandemic hit but have since increased dramatically.
When the pandemic hit, Americans immediately jumped into action, putting protective measures to ensure everyone remained healthy. Depression should be given this same amount of intense activity.
Here’s why depression should be taken seriously.
Depression Can Lead to Suicide
The Centers for Disease Control reports suicides have declined in the last two years. However, suspected suicide attempts are rising, especially among young adults. Studies show the most common underlying disorder among people who die by suicide is depression.
Both depression and suicide are considered preventable. There are numerous prevention and intervention programs available to people of all ages. While depression is not a predictor of suicide, it can lead to thoughts of suicide.
Many Types of Depression
Depression should be taken seriously because many types can appear. Some may resemble other disorders, leading to a misdiagnosis and further complications. The most common types of depression include:
- Major depression
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Postpartum depression
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Psychotic depression
- Premenstrual dysmorphic disorder
- Situational depression
Learning more about each of these can help you get well sooner.
Symptoms Can Mimic Other Disorders
Not all symptoms of depression are diagnosed quickly or correctly. This could mean an increase in intensity and prolonged effects.
The most common symptoms of depression include feeling tired and having sleep troubles, changes in appetite, and body aches. Other symptoms may include loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, mood swings, crying spells, feelings of hopelessness, and having an empty feeling inside.
Symptoms of depression can appear out of nowhere or after situations like the death of a loved one or other sad occurrences. Depression should ease in the days and weeks following the event. If symptoms remain or worsen in the weeks after, you should talk to a doctor.
Depression Is A Sign of A Brain Problem
Depression is a brain disorder in which the chemicals or neurotransmitters are out of balance. Serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA, and dopamine are a few of the neurotransmitters associated with depression.
If you struggle with depression, it may mean your brain chemicals are too low. There are medicines and natural ways to boost the chemicals, however, so your symptoms of depression can be temporary.
Researchers now claim if depression goes untreated for a long time, it can lead to neurodegenerative levels of brain inflammation. Unfortunately, brain inflammation has been linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Depression Affects Every Part of Your Body
Because depression is a brain disorder, the entire body is affected by the symptoms. Some results are automatic, like feeling emptiness or hopelessness and tiredness. Some symptoms occur because the symptoms make it difficult for you to function. For example, you don’t always make hygiene a priority when depressed. Avoiding the basics of hygiene can lead to dry skin or rashes if you’re not bathing, dental problems if you’re not brushing your teeth, and so on.
Other examples of how depression affects the body include:
- A weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to viruses and bacteria.
- Memory problems such as forgetfulness.
- Trouble concentrating or staying on task at school, work, or home.
- Digestive problems like nausea, constipation, or diarrhea.
- Eating problems can lead to obesity, malnutrition, and for some, eating disorders.
- Stress increases blood pressure, forcing the heart to work harder.
- Inflammation in the body that can lead to autoimmune disorders.
- Sleep disorders that prevent restorative sleep, a time when the brain and body heal.
- Lowered libido and sexual performance.
- Sensitivity to pain increases due to lower Serotonin levels.
- The use of drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances to cope further damages the body.
Depression Is Common With Chronic Illness
People with chronic illnesses like diabetes, Lyme disease, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and multiple sclerosis have depression. Reports claim at least one-third of people have comorbid disorders.
Physical health and mental health are directly connected. Having positive mental health can improve the physical symptoms of the disease. For example, depression treatment that includes guided imagery and mindfulness-based techniques has been found to work well in treating pain.
You may also notice that your mental health improves when you take care of yourself physically. Exercise, for instance, boosts endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are chemicals that are like natural pain relievers. Also, because neurotransmitters have been found in the gut, eating can affect how you feel mentally.
Depression Is A Side Effect of Some Medications
Some prescription drugs have the side effect of depression. Beta-blockers used to treat blood pressure are noted as having a side effect of depression. Corticosteroids used to treat inflammatory conditions also affect serotonin levels, leading to depressive symptoms in some people.
Other medicines with a side effect of depression include benzodiazepines, Parkinson’s disease drugs, birth control, or other drugs that change hormones. Stimulants, anticonvulsants, cholesterol-lowering, acne control, pain relievers, antibiotics, and thyroid disease are more medicines that can lead to depressive symptoms.
Because it is essential to continue medications that can save your life, it’s just as important to pay attention to symptoms of depression if they occur.
What To Do Next
If you have symptoms of depression that go beyond a temporary situation, take it seriously and seek help from a licensed mental health professional like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. They have numerous ways to treat depression that does not interfere with other medicines and improve physical health.
Even if you have just one symptom of depression, seek help. Simple lifestyle changes can likely make a huge difference. Depression is treatable, and you can start yours today.
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Last medically reviewed October 7, 2022