Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the world. Despite being a mental health issue, it profoundly impacts physical and social wellbeing. Enlisting all of the symptoms of depression goes beyond the scope of this article, but there are countless ways it can affect your life.
You might have heard of “feeling butterflies in your stomach” or experienced a racing heartbeat in a moment of panic. Despite being two entirely different entities, there is a deep connection between the human mind and body. When one falls sick or lags, the other gets affected – and depression does the same. It can be challenging and confusing to understand what depression is. Still, you can take steps to address the issues and prevent them from impacting every aspect of your life.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) identifies depression as a period of sadness for at least two weeks that tampers with your social, professional, and personal life. Apart from bouts of sadness, depression can affect you in the following ways:
Depression and substance abuse
Depression is more than feeling sad and empty. The frequency and duration of those feelings become debilitating and make you feeble. If you’re suffering from depression, you might be at a higher risk of developing a toxic relationship with alcohol or illicit substances.
Resorting drugs and alcohol may seem like you’ve found a cure to feeling sad and empty, but that adds fuel to the fire. Seek help for depression if you cannot resist the urge to consume alcohol or consume other intoxicants. Alcohol and substance abuse may trigger heightened stress, suicidal ideation, lack of cognition, and fatigue. Fighting depressive symptoms can make your body weak. Topping that up with substances can only worsen your condition. Rehab facilities like Vista Pines Health in Florida are great if you struggle with substance abuse and depression. Through psychological and medical intervention, it is easier to fight both perils.
Prolonged sadness can lead to feeling overwhelmed and empty. It can also cause low self-esteem and a perpetual need to seek external validation. Sadness may also incite feelings of clinginess and heightened emotional sensitivity like getting angry too quickly or crying a lot. Such effects may hinder social relationships and create an imbalance in professional and personal life.
Chronic inflammation and the immune system
Depression and stress trigger the release of cortisol. Your body releases cortisol after the “fight or flight” stage. Cortisol helps regulate your body by releasing energy from sugar stored in your liver. Though cortisol helps regulate your metabolism and suppresses inflammation, heightened stress can increase cortisol concentration in the blood. Excessive cortisol in your blood may lead to a suppressed immune system and chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation may cause immunosuppressive issues like asthma, hypertension, or Type 2 diabetes.
Depression, though linked with mental and emotional stress, also forces your body into physical stress. When your body is under pressure or feeling overworked with emotions, it can manifest in the following ways:
- Reduced appetite or malnutrition
- Digestive issues like stomachache, acidity, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) due to an increase in inflammation
- Sudden weight changes
If left untreated, depression can intercede with the digestive system functions, causing permanent damage like weak intestines due to acidity and ulcers. Abrupt changes in diet and weight can cause Type 2 diabetes or obesity.
Cardiovascular health issues
Mental health issues trigger the release of cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones), constrict blood vessels, and force the body to enter a “fight or flight” stage. It can damage your cardiovascular system and increase the likelihood of heart problems. Due to this, toxic habits like smoking and substance abuse can put your body at further risk. Apart from that, depression and stress may also cause hypertension and high cholesterol, further increasing your risk of a heart attack or heart failure.
Memory has close ties with your emotional and psychological wellbeing. When your body suffers from elevated stress or panic, it may constrict blood flow to the brain. It happens because your body, in a state of panic or anxiety, may not prioritize creating memories as much as it prefers regulating your emotions. It’s also why depression causes a lack of concentration and clarity.
Depression weakens the immune system, which also means you might experience sudden body aches and pains. Joint pain, muscle stiffness, and frequent headaches can all be effects of depression, though not in every case. If you’ve been experiencing body aches, they may worsen as your depressive symptoms enhance.
Sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea are interlinked with depression. Sleep disorders can cause depression, or depressive symptoms may hinder the sleep cycle. If you have insomnia, you may be at a higher risk of developing depression or enhanced depressive symptoms.
In addition, Two types of insomnia exist – sleep maintenance insomnia and sleep onset insomnia.
Sleep onset insomnia, as the name suggests, is when you cannot fall asleep. When you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you have sleep maintenance insomnia.
Apart from that, depressive symptoms lead to uneasy sleep routines and cause daytime sleepiness.
Poor social life
Besides physical and mental health, depression can drastically change your social life. People who suffer from depression are likely to go out less or socialize less frequently than others. Depression can lower your sense of self and confidence, forcing you to avoid conversations or meeting people of interest.
You may also stop hanging out with friends due to the stigma surrounding depression. It is not uncommon for depressed individuals to stop talking to or meeting old friends. Social responsibility seems like a burden when you’re depressed.
Depression reduces the sense of responsibility of doing even small tasks like brushing your teeth or changing the sheets. Due to overwhelming emptiness, it becomes difficult to do mundane tasks as they feel purposeless.
Depression may seem like the end of the road, but it is not. If you think you may have depression, turn to a healthcare provider and discuss your feelings. They may help you identify underlying causes and guide you to recovery. Seeking professional psychological care is better than resorting to unhealthy ways of managing depression and stress.