I recently read an interview with Dr. Paul McClelland, a psychiatrist at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore about the serious physical changes in the body and brain that can be a result of depression. These conditions or complications are among them:
1. Anorexia. Many depressed patients also have eating disorders which can cause irreversible kidney damage and other complications.
2. Self-harm. Self-inflicted wounds can cause several complications.
3. Noncompliance with treatment. Depressives sometimes do not comply with a doctor’s medication or treatment plan, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other problems.
4. Self-neglect. If a depressive doesn’t have the energy, for example, to get her annual mammogram, she could be at risk for a disease like breast cancer advancing much more quickly than had she taken the necessary precautions.
5. Abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. As I mentioned in my latest Britney article, persons with mental illness often self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to create the state of well-being that non-depressives experience on a regular basis. Habitual drinking or drugging, however, strengthens the habit, which aggravates the mood disorder, making this a viscous cycle.
6. Profound insomnia. Insomnia can trigger depression and vice versa because when a person’s sleep is disrupted, that causes changes in the body’s internal biological clock, known as circadian rhythm. This rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that affects our eating and sleeping patterns, brain wave activity, hormone production, and other biological activities.
7. Weak immune systems. When people are very depressed their immune system often doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. And with a weakened immune system, people are more prone to infections and cancer.
8. Heart disease. When people are severely depressed, they sometimes are more prone to blood clotting, through the adherence of platelets. This could explain why people who experience depression after a heart attack or stroke have a worse prognosis than non-depressed people. They are more likely to have subsequent heart attacks and strokes.