Yes. Depression does lead to an increased risk of many physical diseases like heart attack and stroke, though one can not say that depression causes these diseases. People who are chronically depressed or have got many episodes of depressive illness, tend to have weaker immune systems due to severe forms of stress that manifests within the body throughout one's lifespan. However, these physical symptoms are generally taken with less care and the dampening effects of depression on physical health often go unnoticed. This leads to a poor immune response in the body against infections and inflammations and makes the body prone to developing fatal illnesses. This is one possible explanation for the appearance of lifestyle and physical diseases common among chronically depressed patients at later age. Some of the common physical problems experienced by depressed patients often are given below.
5 Effects of depression on the body
1. Chronic Pain: It is common for people with depression to experience aches and pains in various parts of the body when they undergo distressing episodes. The most common sites of pain are head, joints, muscles, and lower back.
2. Heart Failure: People with depression history often have a poor diet, and do not engage in many physical activities. They lead sedentary lifestyles and hence develop an increased risk of heart attacks. People who have got proper medications for depression often do not experience a second heart attack, which also indicates that depression may have some direct causal impact on heart health.
3: Autoimmune Disorders: People with chronic forms of depression-like dysthymic disorder (persists for more than 2 years, but lower in intensity) often have poor immune health and may go on to develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diabetes, and arthritis. These diseases are caused by poor immunity that is acquired in life.
4. Gastrointestinal Problems: Depressed people often develop problems relating to digestion of food, like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. This is often associated with changes in diet and weight, which is inadequate in people with depression. Lack of physical activities also compromises digestive processes.
5. Sexual and Sleep problems: Two most commonly related problems that are often accompanied by depression are reduced sleep and decreased libido. This leads to further worries in patients, especially who are young and are beginning to have a sexual life. Sleep may be more or less in duration, depending on various other factors, like occupational status and severity of symptoms.
So we see above that depressed patients experience a large number of physical conditions that need treatment along with mood regulation and improved activity levels. Depression occurs in clusters and always includes some physical manifestations, either short term or chronic illnesses. Hence, these problems should not be ignored, and managed properly. It is often the case, that while managing these physical symptoms, several psychological changes happen which improve the over the mental health of the patient. That is why physical exercise is always found to have profound effects on the mental health of depressed patients.
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