Guest Post: How Depression Can Negatively Affect Your Health

Posted on December 9, 2011

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How Depression can Negatively effect your Health

Studies suggest that 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Although it is well known that diseases including cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s can lead to the onset of depression, it is now becoming clear that depression can have a devastating physical effect on otherwise healthy individuals. Depression increases the stress hormones released into the bloodstream, damaging the immune system and making the victim more vulnerable to illness and disease.

Sleep Disorders
Approximately 80 percent of people who suffer from depression show disruptions in normal sleep patterns. Symptoms range from chronic insomnia to oversleeping or sleeping at inappropriate times. Both sleep deprivation and oversleeping can further weaken the immune system and lead to feelings of lethargy and chronic fatigue. In addition, the lack of adequate, restful sleep takes a toll on both job performance and relationships, and is often cited as a cause in traffic and industrial accidents.

Eating Disorders
The link between depression and eating disorders isn’t completely clear. What is known is that many people with eating disorders including anorexia and binge eating have a history of depression, and that changes in established eating patterns is often a symptom of clinical depression. Overeating and self-starvation both lead to serious long-term health consequences including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Substance Abuse
Despite growing awareness of depression and its effects, there is still a stigma attached to depression. Sufferers often feel overwhelmed by sadness and embarrassed about their inability to cope. Consequently, they refrain from seeking the professional help they need. Instead, they attempt to self-medicate, using alcohol and street or prescription drugs to alleviate their pain. Alcohol and opiates are depressants that can worsen the symptoms of depression and their abuse can have lasting effects on the body, including liver disease, cancer and diabetes.

Heart Disease
It’s long been known that many patients suffer from depression after heart attack or surgery, and evidence now suggests that depression can affect the heart. While the link is usually tied to the fact that the clinically depressed are less likely to eat healthfully or exercise regularly and more likely to have unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking, the stress that comes from constant feelings of anxiety or low self-esteem increases blood pressure and may lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Depression is commonly regarded as a disease of the mind. It is clear that it can have physical effects as well. The good news is that health problems linked to the progression of depression can be alleviated by treating the underlying cause. Medical attention including anti-depressant medications and therapy in concert with self-care such as regular exercise and healthful eating has been shown to improve both mental and physical health.

I write about several health related topics both physical and mental. One subject that I’m very passionate about is depression. It is something that millions of people struggle with and think that people should know more about.

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Posted in: Advice, Lifestyle, Medical