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Diseases Associated with Depression

Monday 20 April 2020
Mental Health

Table of Contents


I. Anxiety

II. Substance abuse

III. Eating disorders

IV. Stroke and heart disease

V. Chronic pain


Depression can present itself in virtually all physical or psychiatric disorders. Illness may trigger a depressive episode or there may be associations between depression and certain physical disorders. Regardless of which category your depression falls into, it is important to learn that you are not alone in your condition, and help is available if you are willing to seek it out. There are several medications on the market, including Lexapro and Prozac that can help control symptoms of depression and disorders related to it.

Depression presents itself differently in every affected person, but some common symptoms include feelings of hopelessness and a loss of interest in everyday activities or hobbies. Depression can be caused by several things, but it may stem from a physical illness that is triggering symptoms. Read on to learn more about illnesses that are often linked with the development of depression. 

Anxiety

We all experience anxiety at one time or another. It is the body’s reaction to stress, but it can often affect the physical body and mind if it gets out of control. Anxiety can present itself with rapid heartbeats, aches and pains, and muscle tension. The National Institute of Mental Health cites that over 18 percent of adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders affect women twice as frequently as men. The most common anxiety disorders can include: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder: People with this type of anxiety are often filled with worry and tension. These individuals often think too much about their health, finances, and relationship problems. To properly diagnose this condition, your doctor will ask if you have felt anxious or worried on most days for at least 6 months. These feelings can easily transform into depression.

a man's profile in black and white

  • Panic disorder: Panic disorder involves the sudden onset of fear and terror. People may experience chest pain, choking, dizziness, and shortness of breath. If you constantly feel like you’re going to die, then symptoms of depression can sink in as well. 
  • Specific phobias: Phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder. Phobias involve an irrational fear of something that poses no actual danger to the person. 
  • Social anxiety disorder: This anxiety goes beyond being shy around strangers. Social anxiety is the debilitating feeling that you might humiliate yourself in public. It is very common but left untreated it can cause social isolation, leaving you vulnerable to depression. [1]  

Substance abuse

Substance abuse disorders are often linked to depression. Substance abuse involves the use of drugs or alcohol to the point of social, financial, legal, or physical harm. Biological factors can also influence your likelihood of developing substance abuse along with depression. Substance abuse can lead to depression or vice versa. 

Some symptoms of substance abuse can include: 

  • Finding it impossible to discontinue the use of drugs
  • Giving up or reducing social or work-related activities 
  • An increasing amount of substance used over time
  • Withdrawal symptoms like nausea, insomnia, agitation, or hallucination

Treating symptoms of substance abuse along with depression can be difficult. Substance abuse may require detoxification in a clinic or hospital, but counseling along with antidepressants can be beneficial. That treatment regime can help with the physical withdrawal symptoms as well as improve the emotions associated with quitting your habit. [2] 

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are often associated with depression because they are both marked by extremes. Depression may lead to eating disorders, but eating disorders can also result in depression. Some common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorders. 

  • Anorexia: Anorexia is an emotional disorder that involves an obsession around losing weight or refusing to eat. Extreme thinness occurs because of self-starvation.
  • Bulimia: Bulimia is a mental illness that involves cycles of eating large quantities of food (binge eating) and purging. To purge, a person may take laxatives or make themselves vomit in order to expel food from their body.[3]

Several plates of waffles and toast on a breakfast table

  • Binge eating disorders: Binge eating disorders are characterized by episodes of eating abnormally large amounts of food. Binge eating is not always associated with purging and the disorder has to occur, on average, at least once a week for 3 months. Feelings of self-disgust, depression, or guilt often follow a binge session.[4] 

Physiological changes in the brain can occur if you are severely underweight or malnourished. Those with eating disorders feel that they are not good enough, which is a symptom that depressive people often feel. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 44 percent of bipolar patients studied have trouble controlling their eating. Other studies show that anorexics are 50 times more likely to commit suicide than someone in the general population. [3] 

Stroke and heart disease

Some studies suggest that depression is more likely to occur after experiencing a severe stroke. A stroke occurs due to a sudden interruption of blood supply to the brain. This is caused by a blockage of arteries leading to the brain. If your stroke occurs in an area of the brain responsible for mood and personality, then depressive symptoms can occur. If a person exhibits depression after a stroke then they are at risk for increased mortality. Medications like Lexapro or Prozac can help with the symptoms of depression in these patients. 

Unmanaged stress can have a large impact on a person’s heart health. If you are recovering from cardiac surgery, depression can worsen fatigue and pain, which can increase your risk of further injury or death. Studies show that patients who suffer from severe depression have an increased risk of death from cardiovascular issues. In the acute-care setting, there appears to be a link between short-term mortality after a myocardial infarction (heart attack). [5] 

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a condition that lasts much longer than normal after sustaining an injury. You are experiencing chronic pain if you have low energy, mood disorders, muscle pain, and unusually high levels of stress hormone. Chronic pain is hard to diagnose because the cause is not always known.

a man leaning his head and hands against a wall

Chronic pain may also get worse as your body gets more sensitive to pain and can suddenly occur in places that were previously fine. Because chronic pain is hard to treat, it can make sufferers feel like there is no end in sight for their condition, which can spur on suicidal thoughts. [6] Chronic pain can also involve disorders like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

  • Fibromyalgia: This disorder is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, which is accompanied by fatigue, memory loss, sleep, and mood issues. Fibromyalgia affects the way your brain processes painful sensations and amplifies nerve sensations. [7] 
  • Chronic fatigue: This disorder involves a feeling of mental and physical fatigue that does not go away. A good night’s sleep does not help this condition. Chronic fatigue cannot be explained and may be linked to an underlying condition, like depression. 

Depression and chronic pain share similar neurotransmitters and nerve pathways in the brain. Chronic pain can lead to a lack of exercise, sleep, relationships, jobs, and income. If these important life factors are affected by chronic pain, then you are more vulnerable to clinical depression. [8] 

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.