A major depression affects all aspects of life. While people think of depression as essentially a mental state, depression complications can manifest as physical symptoms. Physical depression complications include weight fluctuations, sleep disturbances and even an impaired pain tolerance. Mental complications range from loneliness and low self-esteem to self injury and suicidal behavior.
Suicide: The Most Dangerous Depression Complication
Suicidal behavior is the most serious of all depression complications, simply because a successful suicide is an irreversible act. Depression is a serious risk factor for self injury and suicidal behavior, and any indication that a person is suicidal needs to be taken seriously. This is especially true for people struggling with depression, as depression is the number one cause of suicide in the U.S. Learning to identify suicidal behavior could save a depressed person’s life.
Weight Gain, Obesity and Eating Disorders
Changes in eating habits are common symptoms of depression. Some people find they have little appetite when depressed. In other cases appetite increases dramatically, leading to weight gain and possible obesity. Some people eat to comfort themselves, in response to stress, and as a way of coping with depression symptoms.
A close relationship exists between eating disorders and depression. The two conditions are often seen together, although which disorder came first is often impossible to gauge with any accuracy. Sometimes an eating disorder is a complication of depression, sometime’s it is the cause of the mood disorder. Eating disorders worsen depression symptoms and vice versa.
Self-Esteem, Lifestyle, and Depression
Depression severely impairs quality of life. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness caused by depression can result in cripplingly low self-esteem. The anxiety and stress of depression can also result in the development of additional mood disorders (anxiety and panic disorders are often seen in combination with depression).
Depression impairs memory, the ability to think clearly and motivation. Productivity at work or school suffers due to these symptoms. Relationships with family, friends and lovers also suffer, as depressed people are often withdrawn, disinterested in social activities and/or prone to emotional outbursts.
Depression complications can also affect a person’s love life. A lowered libido, or sex drive) is a common depression complication. Fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and low energy levels can all combine to reduce a person’s interest in sexual relations, which can damage a relationship’s emotional health as well as its physical activities.
Substance Abuse and Depression
Like eating disorders, substance abuse can be either a depression complication or a risk factor for depression. When substance abuse and alcoholism are seen in combination with depression the affected individual is said to have a dual diagnosis. Both conditions must be treated or neither condition will improve.
Depression, Health and Pain
Depression can have a significant impact on a person’s physical health. Studies show that when depression coexists with a significant physical ailment, symptoms of the physical condition are more severe than when depression is not an issue. Similarly, depression symptoms worsen when seen in combination with serious health conditions.
The immune system appears to be affected by depression, making it more difficult for the body to fight off disease. Even pain tolerance suffers—pain thresholds lower when people are coping with a major depressive episode.
While depression complications are serious, there is hope. Successfully treating depression often alleviates complications caused by the mood disorder.