How Depression Affects your Body

Depressed young man

Depression results from chemical changes that alter the way you think, feel and react to situations. Such changes can also extend to the rest of your body. If left unchecked, depression can be damaging to your physical well-being as it affects the heart and the immune system and can also lead to suicide and despair.

Other physical conditions associated with this mental disorder include chronic fatigue, decreased appetite, low sex drive, insomnia and increased body aches.

It Triggers Neurovegetative Changes

Depression causes neurophysiologic changes in the body by triggering a decline in the levels of neurotransmitters, especially the limbic region of the brain, which controls emotions. The affected neurotransmitters include serotonin and norepinephrine. Neurovegetative changes are changes that cause a person to isolate himself or herself from the society and are physical, cognitive and emotional in nature. Neurovegetative symptoms include lack of appetite, constant fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, suicidal tendencies, poor concentration and loss of interest in activities the afflicted person once enjoyed, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Stress Hormones

Stress and depression are always intertwined. When you are stressed, your body’s adrenal glands secrete three important hormones which are norepinephrine, cortisol (a corticosteroid) and epinephrine. These stress hormones trigger the symptoms experienced by the body when it is in a “flight or fight mode" such as high blood pressure and quicker heart rate, high levels of glucose in the blood and shunting blood off from the digestive organs to the brain.

These responses manifest themselves in form of dry mouth, anxiety, loss of appetite and fast and irregular heartbeat. Normally, in the face of a threat, this mechanism gives you the energy boost needed to flee away from the immediate danger or fight in self-defense. Constant exposure to a stressful situation results in excess production of the flight or fight hormones that can wear out your body in the long run and trigger depression.

Depression and Blood Glucose

Various studies have found a direct link between depression and hyperglycemia, a condition where the body is unable to tolerate glucose. Hyperglycemia increases the risk of kidney disease and type 2 diabetes. It also leads to slow healing of wounds, hypertension and neuropathy.

Weaker Immune System

It is very important to go for treatment during the early stages of depression since it gradually weakens the immune system. It does so by impairing T-cells which are responsible for protecting the body from carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), pathogens and other harmful foreign organisms. The T-cells also control chronic inflammation, which is associated with conditions such as asthma, heart conditions, osteoarthritis and autoimmune disorders. Vaccination is also less effective in patients with depressive disorder.

Cardiovascular System

Depression and cardiovascular disease are interlinked, with research showing that 15 percent of patients who suffer from a cardiovascular disease and 20 percent of patients who have undergone heart bypass surgery likely to have a major depression. Depression also predisposes a person to engage in risky habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. Individuals suffering from depression also suffer from irregular sleep patterns, which worsen the risk of contracting cardiovascular complications and heart attack.


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