How Untreated Depression Can Harm Your Physical Health

Woman curled up in ball on the floor, suffering from untreated depression

At least 7% of adult Americans have experienced at least one major depressive disorder. The condition is common and, left untreated, depression’s effects are far-reaching. Depression can send people into a vicious cycle of mental and physical health issues.

The practitioners at Nugent Family Counseling understand the widespread impact that depression can have on people. The longer you go without treating depression, the more likely it can affect physical as well as mental health.

Here’s a look at some of the more common physical complaints that accompany untreated depression.

Chronic Pain

Pain and depression have an intricate relationship. Pain can accompany depression, and dealing with chronic pain can sometimes lead to depression.

For people who have depression first, pain may manifest as unexplained headaches and body aches. Joint pain and breast tenderness are other common complaints. There are several theories as to why this occurs.

Depression is associated with a dysregulation of serotonin in your brain that may influence how you feel pain. People with depression may also just be more sensitive to pain and its effects. Depression may also cause widespread bodily inflammation that makes pain more acute.

Regardless of exactly why there’s this relationship between depression and pain, few dispute the fact that the relationship exists.

Diminished Immunity

Untreated depression and accompanying stress and anxiety can have a notable impact on your body’s immune system. The theory behind this development is that depression may cause an inflammatory response in your body, which weakens your immune system.

Sleep Disruption

People with depression often report sleep problems, which may show up as insomnia or oversleeping. Both are a cause for concern.

If your body isn’t getting the restorative sleep it needs, it can’t function optimally. You may experience excessive daytime fatigue, which interferes with work, school, driving, and mood.

Those who sleep too much may not get enough physical activity and derive the positive effects it has on mood and physical health.

Challenges with Weight Management

Depression is often associated with dramatic weight changes. You may find that you gain excessive amounts of weight or have no appetite and lose too much. Being extremely over- or underweight can have serious implications on your health.

Heart Conditions

Depression doesn’t just metaphorically affect your heart. Stress and anxiety associated with depression can contribute to higher blood pressure numbers, putting you at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

Depression can also cause constriction of your blood vessels, which also compromises heart health.

Poor Sexual Health

Depression can stifle a healthy libido. You may have trouble with arousal and fail to find pleasure in orgasm. This can affect relationships, fertility, and overall quality of life.

Gastrointestinal Distress

People with depression often suffer from problems such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or constipation. The stress and anxiety associated with depression can aggravate irritable bowel syndrome, too.

The bottom line is that depression can be an all-encompassing disorder, which makes seeking our help a great idea for both your physical and mental health. Contact one of the three Nugent Family Counseling locations in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Aliso Viejo, California.