The effects of depression may extend beyond a person’s emotions and mental health. Depression can also affect a person’s physical health.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
Depression is a complex mental health condition that causes a person to have a low mood and may leave them feeling persistently sad or hopeless.
Depressive symptoms can be a temporary experience in response to grief or trauma. But if they last longer than 2 weeks, they may indicate a serious depressive disorder.
These symptoms can also indicate other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists the
- depressed mood on most days, including feelings of sadness or emptiness
- loss of pleasure in previously enjoyable activities
- too little or too much sleep most days
- unintended weight loss or gain or changes in appetite
- physical agitation or feelings of sluggishness
- low energy or fatigue
- feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- trouble concentrating or making decisions
- intrusive thoughts of death or suicide
The symptoms vary between individuals and may change over time. For a doctor to diagnose depression, a person must have five or more symptoms that are present during the same 2-week period.
Research has documented many ways depression can affect physical health, including the following:
Weight gain or loss
People with depression may experience appetite changes, which can lead to unintended weight loss or gain.
Medical experts associate excessive weight gain with many health issues, including diabetes and heart disease. If a person’s body weight is too low, it can harm the heart, affect fertility, and cause fatigue.
A person’s depression symptoms can worsen because of chronic pain.
Depression may be an independent risk factor for heart health problems. Mental health conditions such as depression
Depression can also reduce a person’s motivation to maintain healthy habits. An unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of heart disease.
Chronic stress and depression have links to inflammation and may change the immune system. Conversely,
However, it is unclear whether depression causes inflammation or chronic inflammation makes someone more vulnerable to depression. More research is necessary to determine the link between the two.
Sexual health problems
People with depression
Some people also experience relationship problems due to depression, which can affect sexual activity.
Worsening chronic health conditions
People who have a chronic health condition may find that their symptoms become worse if they develop depression.
Chronic conditions may already feel isolating or stressful, and depression may worsen these feelings.
A person with depression may also find it difficult to follow their treatment plan for a chronic condition, which can mean that the symptoms get worse.
People who have symptoms of depression and have a chronic condition should talk with a doctor about strategies for addressing both conditions. Addressing mental health concerns may improve physical health and make a chronic condition easier to manage.
People with depression may experience insomnia or trouble sleeping.
This can leave them feeling exhausted and make it difficult to manage both their physical and mental health.
Doctors link sleep deprivation to a host of health problems. Similarly, research has
Recognizing that depression can affect a person’s physical health can help them seek treatment and make changes to manage their symptoms.
Depression is treatable. A doctor may recommend a combined approach involving medication, therapy, and lifestyle strategies. With the right support, a person can manage both the physical and mental health effects of depression.