What Is Depression?
The well-being of your mind and body are interconnected and dependent on one another. When your body feels sick, your mood and mental capabilities are affected; likewise, mental health greatly affects the physical health of your body.
Depression affects how your mind and body feel and react to everyday life. The symptoms may occur gradually or after one or many qualifying life events. Depression can be confusing, lonely, and can have a dramatic effect on an individual’s quality of life.
Symptoms Of Depression
Depression is different than occasional or situational sadness. We all experience changing mood, anxiety, and sadness as a regular response to everyday life; but if you notice that you consistently struggle to stay positive and gain pleasure from life, it may be a sign of clinical depression.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, clinical depression lasts for at least two weeks, and it interferes with your personal and professional life and relationships.
Individuals suffering from depression may become reclusive and uninterested in activities that typically bring pleasure. They may have overwhelming feelings of sadness, guilt, or hopelessness, and chronic fatigue that lead them to push friends and family away.
Depression may also be manifested in some of the following ways:
- Frequently crying
- Overwhelming feelings of attachment
- Fixation on death and/or thoughts of suicide
- Inability to concentrate or remember
- Paralyzing indecision
- Feeling unmotivated to fulfill work or social commitments
- Loss of sex drive
- Unexplainable aches and pains including headaches and stomachaches
- Feelings of fatigue and low energy
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is a common disorder that affects at least 6.7 % of adults in the US. If you believe that you or someone you know may have depression, please contact your physician to talk about treatment options.
Depression And Substance Abuse
Symptoms of depression can be debilitating, and feel overwhelming. Because of this, individuals with depression are more likely to develop an abusive relationship with drugs, alcohol, and other substances. Substance abuse and depression go hand in hand. People with depression may seek a sense of control or escape by using alcohol to numb the emotional symptoms of depression.
Conversely, the use of drugs and alcohol can trigger and enhance depressive symptoms and have other damaging repercussions. It is estimated that 30% of people with substance abuse problems experience depression. The pairing of substance abuse and depression is dangerous, We strongly urge individuals with depression to seek professional help and to avoid drugs and alcohol.
Depression And Its Effect On The Body
Depression is a mental disorder that affects your mental and physical health. The emotional symptoms of depression can be mentally devastating and also physically debilitating as well. Depression can lead to serious physical consequences by affecting the following systems of the body:
Your digestive system is responsible for digesting food and absorbing nutrients into the blood stream.
Depression puts your body into a state of emotional and physical stress, which can have the following symptomatic impact:
- Loss of appetite, malnutrition
- Weight changes or fluctuations
- Stomachaches, cramps, constipation
Ongoing digestive system interruptions can leave the digestive system with permanent damage. Unhealthy weight gain or poor nutrition can also lead to the development of Type 2 Diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses.
Mental stress causes stress hormones that make blood vessels tighten and put the body into a stressful state of emergency. The body’s stress response is damaging to your cardiovascular system and can lead to heart disease. Because of this, it can be as dangerous to your cardiovascular health as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.
Constant exposure to stress hormones can also result in a weakened immune system that leaves you more susceptible to illness.
Sleep disorders are interconnected with (and can contribute to ) depressive disorders. In fact, those who suffer from insomnia have 10 times the risk of developing depression. Depression can, in turn, affect sleep patterns. Insomnia is very common among depressed patients.
There are two types of insomnia. Depression can affect both:
- Sleep Onset Insomnia – Difficulty falling asleep.
- Sleep Maintenance Insomnia – Difficulty staying asleep.
In addition to insomnia, many people with depressive symptoms report unrefreshing sleep and daytime sleepiness. Sometimes, a sleep disorder plays a big enough role in depression that, when treated, can help relieve some symptoms of depression.
Memory loss is linked closely to your emotional and mental state. When your body is in a state of stress or anxiety, the flow of blood to the brain is constricted because the body doesn’t make memory a priority. This is why depression can make it difficult to focus or think clearly. Research also indicates that it may cause short-term memory loss.
What Helps Depression?
If you are living with depression, we strongly recommend that you seek professional care from a qualified health provider.
In addition, focus on building healthy habits. When you take care of your body, your mental health will benefit. And in many cases, building healthy habits can help you moderate your symptoms.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It can:
- Increases body temperature – This has a soothing effect on your Central Nervous System (CNS).
- Releases endorphins – The natural mood-boosting hormone in your body.
- Reduces immune system chemicals that exacerbate depression.
- Can improve your self-esteem and body image.
Be good to your body by exercising, eating healthy and nutritious foods, and reducing or eliminating substance abuse. Exercise and nutrition choices can have a powerful impact on relieving some symptoms.
Consult a physician before starting any diet and exercise regimen.
If you believe you may have depression, the first step is to talk to your primary care provider. They are trained and equipped to help you determine the type of care that will best suit your needs, and refer you to a mental health specialist if needed.
If you don’t have a primary care provider, contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care providers, located in multiple convenient locations throughout Snohomish County. Our goal is to get you back to living a happy, healthy life.