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Depression and Physical Health: What You Need to Know

Depression and Physical Health: What You Need to Know

Depression is a mental health disorder that not only affects our emotional well-being but also has a profound impact on our physical health. The connection between depression and physical health is a complex and bidirectional relationship. Research has shown that depressed individuals are more likely to experience a range of physical health problems, and, conversely, physical health conditions can contribute to the development or worsening of this mental health disorder. In this article, we will explore the effects of depression on the body, the relationship between it and physical health problems, and what steps can be taken to improve both mental and physical well-being. The key point is that depression and physical health are linked.

 

Depression and Physical Health – Effects on the Central Nervous System

Depression can have a significant impact on the central nervous system, leading to a variety of symptoms that are often overlooked or dismissed. Older adults, in particular, may have difficulty identifying cognitive changes associated with depression, attributing them to the process of ageing. Memory loss and reduced reaction time are common in older depressed adults compared to their younger counterparts.

The symptoms include overwhelming sadness, feelings of guilt or emptiness, and a loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities. These symptoms can manifest both emotionally and physically, making it challenging for individuals to understand and articulate their experiences. Frequent episodes of crying may be a symptom, although not everyone exhibits this particular manifestation.

Another way depression and physical health are linked are the visible physical symptoms include chronic body aches, unexplained pain, headaches, and fatigue. These physical manifestations may not respond to traditional pain medication and can be associated with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. Depression can also impair concentration, memory, and decision-making abilities, making it difficult to maintain work schedules and fulfil social obligations.

 

Effects on the Digestive System

Depression can also have a significant impact on the digestive system. Many individuals with depression experience changes in appetite, leading to either increased or decreased food intake. Overeating or bingeing can result in weight gain and obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, a loss of appetite, particularly in older adults, can lead to a condition known as geriatric anorexia.

Digestive problems are also common in individuals with depression, including stomachaches, cramps, constipation, and malnutrition. The gut-brain connection plays a crucial role in these digestive disorders, as the nervous system influences the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. Chronic anxiety and stress associated with depression can exacerbate these symptoms and contribute to the development of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional dyspepsia.

Maintaining a healthy diet is essential for individuals with depression to support their overall well-being. Nutrients obtained from a balanced diet are crucial for proper brain function and the production of neurotransmitters that regulate mood and emotions.

 

Effects on the Cardiovascular and Immune Systems

Depression and stress are closely linked, and chronic stress can have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system. When we experience stress, our bodies release hormones that increase heart rate and constrict blood vessels, putting the body in a prolonged state of emergency. Over time, this can lead to the development of heart disease and increase the risk of cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.

Depression can also weaken the immune system, making individuals more vulnerable to infections and diseases. Research suggests a relationship between inflammation and depression, although the exact connection is still not fully understood. Inflammation is associated with various health problems, and some anti-inflammatory agents have shown potential benefits for individuals with depression.

Individuals with depression may also engage in behaviours that further compromise their physical health. Substance misuse, including alcohol and drugs, is common among those with depression and can lead to increased instances of unsafe behaviour. The risk of suicide is also higher in individuals with depression, emphasizing the critical need for appropriate support and intervention.

 

Depression in Children and Teens

Depression can affect individuals of all ages, including children and teenagers. Recognizing depression in children can be challenging, as they may have difficulty articulating their symptoms. Persistent clinginess, worry, and a reluctance to attend school without improvement over time can be indicators of depression in children. Teenagers, in particular, are susceptible to depression, with a significant number experiencing at least one episode of depression in a given year.

Symptoms of depression in teens may include a notable decline in academic performance, excessive use of social media or computer games, negative changes in behaviour at home or school, and self-harm. It is crucial to provide appropriate support and intervention for children and teenagers experiencing depression to prevent long-term consequences and improve their overall well-being.

 

The Vicious Cycle of Depression and Physical Health Problems

Depression and physical health problems often exist in a vicious cycle, with each condition exacerbating the other. The physical changes caused by depression, such as insomnia or lack of deep sleep, can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to physical illnesses. Conversely, physical health conditions can contribute to the development or worsening of depression, further impacting mental well-being.

To break this cycle, it is essential to address both depression and physical health problems simultaneously. Seeking professional help, such as therapy or medication, can significantly improve symptoms of depression and enhance overall well-being. Additionally, adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques can promote physical and mental health.

 

Seeking Help and Support

If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or struggling with their mental health, it is crucial to seek help and support. The following resources are available for immediate assistance:

  • Call a crisis helpline such as the Hong Kong Government Suicide Prevention Lifeline at +852 2341 7227
  • Reach out to a healthcare professional or your local emergency services for immediate assistance
  • There are suicide prevention Apps Available: HERE

Remember, help is available, and you don’t have to face depression or mental health challenges alone. With the right support and treatment, individuals can improve their mental and physical well-being and lead fulfilling lives.

Liz McCaughey & AM Team

MsC, MoC. Member of: ACA, BACP

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Truth About Depression

Truth About Depression

In this BBC documentary it says that only someone who has had it can really know the truth about depression. Depression causes such a turmoil of emotions that is can be completely debilitating for the person who clinically depressed. As the documentary says there is a one in four chance that a person will be affected by depression at some point of their lives. Depression does not worry about age – it can get you at any time of your life. And as if the symptoms of depression are not bad enough, it is also the stigma that is associated with depression that can cause terrible upset to the depressed person.

Truth about Depression

In Northern Ireland where this documentary is featured people with depression have to hide their illness as they are regarded a weak. In this report a 40 yer old man describes his first experience with the illness. He was a young student and he started to feel very anxious and had to get off the bus on a motorway and he called his father to pick him up. He had no idea what was wrong with him. He spend the next year unable to go out of the house and has battled for over 20 years with mental health problems.

Fortunately thanks to the development of neuroscience, brain imaging can be used in the test for depression and its affects on the brain. These test show that in a depressed person their hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with emotion and memory, is at lest 25% smaller than a non-depressed person. This is encouraging research as it proves depression is real. Some people do not believe there is such a thing as depression and people that say they have it are faking. But thanks to resent research there is now scientific proof that depressions is a real phenomena. It is also good for the suffers of depression as they now know they are not suffering from what the doubters called a non-existent illness. Although the fact that the hippocampus is 25% smaller in a depressed person is proof the disease exists is encouraging. What is even more revealing is that the 25% reduction in the hippocampus can be brought back to normal size if treatment is received. This treatment can be through the talking cures of psychotherapy, psychology, counselling and other therapy methods.

It is a great video about the truth about depression as it describes what people have experienced through the ages. It talks about the use of lunatic asylums to the modern day discoveries within medicine.

If you don’t believe there is such an illness as depression – watch this and reflect on how you feel t the end of it.

If you are a suffer of depression – watch this and know that you are not alone and every day more and more is being discovered which will help find a cure for this disease.

 

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