Depression is the number one cause of disability worldwide. About 16 million American adults suffer a depressive episode every year. Common symptoms of depression include sadness, irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue, lack of motivation, feelings of hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide. Depression obviously has a negative impact on your quality of life, so much so that some people would rather just stop living. We typically think of depression as a psychological condition that mainly affects your perception of the world, but it is also a physical condition too. Here are some of the ways depression can affect your body.
One lesser known symptom of depression is chronic pain. This may be in joints or muscles, headaches, or even in some old injury. There is typically no explanation for the pain, but if you do have some chronic condition, depression may make you feel the pain more keenly. Men are especially prone to notice physical symptoms of depression and it’s often unexplained pain or headaches rather than emotional disturbances that leads them to see a doctor. What’s worse is that chronic pain also worsens depression, so that each condition feeds the other.
Depression can do unpredictable things to your appetite. Typically, depression will either make you less hungry, causing you to lose weight, or it can make you hungry for junk food, especially sweet and fatty foods that give you quick energy and a dopamine boost. Weight fluctuations are always a health concern, especially if you’re gaining a lot of weight. It can put more stress on your joints and heart and increase insulin resistance, leading to diabetes.
Effects from sleep disturbance
Sleep disturbance is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of depression. People either sleep too much or too little. Both are bad for the cardiovascular system. Too little sleep can also make you more vulnerable to illness and slower to heal from injuries.
It is now clear that depression and inflammation are connected but it is less clear if one causes the other. There is a large overlap between depression and conditions such as arthritis, autoimmune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Depression is also likely to make the pain from these conditions worse, leading to a vicious cycle like the one described above.
There is a large overlap between depression and heart disease. They may share a cause, or one may cause the other. One direction of causality does seem clear: if you’re depressed, it’s harder to live a healthy lifestyle. The fatigue and lethargy make you less active, and the poor eating habits that often accompany depression contribute to weight gain, a major risk factor for heart disease.
It’s common for people with depression to report stomach problems, including diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and irritable bowel syndrome. This may be because the depressed brain responds to stress differently, or rather that the depressed brain interprets nearly everything as stressful. Depression and anxiety also frequently overlap and anxiety causes many of the same gastrointestinal problems.
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