Depression has several effects on a person. In previous articles I have spoken about the mental side of depression, however there are many physical effects on the body. In my own case these include persistent tiredness and irritability. At its worst it can take all the energy I have that day just to get out of bed. Depression can be devastating in all areas of a person’s life. The side effects of depression can often be seen at work, school and home as well as in the personal relationships of the person. At work a person with depression may seem uninterested, lazy and unreliable. The person may come to work and do the minimum required. What the Management might not realise is that it might have taken the person all the energy they had that day to get out of bed in the morning and make it to work.
Depressions can impact the brain, heart and all areas of the body. Depression can reduce the volume of the brain, can affect the heart through inappropriate release of adrenaline. The long- term effects of this can cause damage to the cardiovascular system. This can cause increased stress on the blood vessels, which if left untreated can increase the risk of heart attacks, blood clots and stroke. Depression can also increase mortality rates. People with depression may die 25 years sooner than the average person. This can be through suicide attempts and self-harm as well as drug and alcohol addiction
healthline.com list twelve ways that depression affects the body. These are:
Insomnia; Depression can keep you awake at night because of being unable to relax.
Feeling empty or sad
Pre-occupation with death; Depression can increase suicide risk.
Cognitive changes; Memory issues and trouble making decisions.
Feelings of clinginess
Increased risk of heart attack; Long-term increases in Adrenaline can damage the cardiovascular system.
Constricted blood vessels; One of the results of long-term increases in Adrenaline.
Weight fluctuations; Comfort eating can lead to Obesity and its related illnesses. Under eating can increase the risk of developing Anorexia.
Increase in pain sensitivity; Chronic pain and headaches can have a role in an individuals depression and may not be helped with medication.
Fatigue; Fighting depression can be both physically and mentally exhausting.
Reduced sex drive; This can be an effect of both the illness and medication.
Weakened immune system; The immune system is weakened by depression, particularly natural killer T-cells which help protect the body from carcinogens. A weakened immune system also affects the body’s inflammatory response. A study on livestrong.com reports that this physical effect of depression has been related to an increased incidence of osteoarthritis, asthma, heart disease and autoimmune disorders
Livestrong.com discuss how depression effects stress hormones.
Endogenous Catecholamines (Stress Hormones)
There is an important connection between stress and depression. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) report that severe acute stress and chronic stress can lead to depression. Depressions physical effects on the body are compounded by the body’s response to stress. In his 2008 book Stress Less Dr. Don Colbert, MD reports that over 1,400 physical and chemical reactions in conjunction with over 30 hormones and neurotransmitters are involved in the body’s stress response.
In response to stress three stress hormones called epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol (a corticosteroid) are released by the adrenal gland, which are responsible for the symptoms experienced when the body is in fight or flight mode. An increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased blood glucose and shunting of blood from the digestive organs to the brain help the body cope with the perceived threats. Physical effects range from dry mouth, rapid and irregular heart rate, anxiety and loss of appetite.