Depression and Your Health
The mind and the body are intimately connected, and our overall health depends on both working well. This is most evident in depression: Research shows that people who suffer from clinical depression face a higher risk of contracting one of the stress-linked illnesses than the rest of the population.
Your mind and body are intimately connected, and your overall health depends on both of them working well.
This is most evident in depression: Research shows that people who suffer from clinical depression face a higher risk for contracting certain illnesses, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
One reason for this, the NIMH says, is that depression can lead to poor physical and mental functioning; a person with depression is less likely to follow a healthy lifestyle that prevents some diseases. Also, if a person with depression has a chronic medical condition that requires a certain diet or medication, the depression may make it harder for him or her to follow the treatment plan.
Sometimes, developing a chronic condition or having a serious health problem can lead to depression. Having diabetes, for example, doubles the risk for depression, and the chances of becoming depressed increase as diabetes complications worsen, the NIMH says. People with heart disease also are more likely to suffer from depression, and people with depression are at greater risk for developing heart disease. In addition, people with heart disease who are depressed have an increased risk for death after a heart attack. Drugs used to treat chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, can worsen or even trigger depression and other mood disorders, the NIMH says.
People who are depressed also frequently suffer from headaches and stomach problems.
How do you know if you have depression? Depression is more than a temporary attack of the blues. It is an illness that affects how you feel about yourself and how you think. Without treatment, the symptoms of depression can last for weeks or months, or even years, the NIMH says. Fortunately, depression can be treated and managed, often with a combination of antidepressant medications and therapy.
According to the NIMH, these questions can help you be aware of the warning signs of clinical depression:
Do you often or usually feel sad, anxious or "empty"?
Do you sleep too little or too much?
Has your appetite shrunk, and have you lost weight? Or do you have a bigger appetite, and have you gained weight?
Have you lost interest in activities you once enjoyed?
Are you restless or irritable?
Do you have persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, chronic pain or constipation, that don't respond to treatment?
Do you have difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions?
Do you often feel tired or lack energy?
Do you feel guilty, hopeless or worthless?
Do you have recurring thoughts of death or suicide?
See your doctor if you answered yes to three or more of these questions and have felt this way for longer than two weeks, or if the symptoms interfere with your daily routine.
Not everyone with depression has all of these symptoms. The symptoms also can vary in severity. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your health care provider.
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