The American Psychological Association states that depression is one of the most common mental disorders. According to Healthline, although we think of depression as being a mental and emotional disorder, it can have various effects on our physical well-being. Untreated depression can cause many undesirable physical problems. Here are a few to watch out for.
1. Loss of appetite or overeating
Depression may affect appetite in one of two ways, according to an article on Everyday Health. A loss of pleasure in doing things, such as eating, may cause one to eat less, while feeling fatigued may leave the person with no desire to cook or prepare meals for themselves. On the other hand, some people are affected by emotional eating. That is, one eats because of emotional hunger rather than physical hunger. Food can soothe a patient as it changes the brain’s chemistry and improves mood through association with happier times. Hence the term, “comfort food.”
2. Weight gain or loss
If depression can affect one’s eating habits, it is easy to comprehend that it may also cause weight gain or loss. If you are eating less and not getting the nutrients your body needs, you will end up losing weight. However, if you are consuming more food than usual as well as being less active, it’s fair to say that you will probably gain weight.
3. Increased physical pain
Physical and emotional pain may both be caused by dysregulation of neurotransmitters, according to Nancy Schimelpfening of Verywellmind. Schimelpfeneng also suggests that people with depression may feel pain differently than those without, possibly having a lower pain threshold. She mentions that lower back pain, one of the most common forms of pain in adults, could be directly linked with depression.
4. Gastrointestinal problems
Research has shown that the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps regulate mood, may also have a role in digestive functioning. The “gut-brain connection,” as Harvard Medical School calls it, is very strong. According to Harvard, signals between the gut and brain are so strong that stomach and intestinal distress can be both either the cause or the product of anxiety, stress or depression. Suffice it to say that your “gut feelings” shouldn’t be ignored.
5. Lowered libido
As if depression isn’t a big enough bummer, it can also bring down your sex drive. The American Academy of Family Physicians states that according to one study, more than 70% of unmedicated depression patients reported a loss of sexual interest, and this same study showed libido declined with increasing severity of psychological illness. Though the cause-and-effect relationship of depression and loss of libido is not certain, it is safe to say that there is a correlation between the two.
Depression is a complicated mental illness. It can really play with one’s emotions. More importantly, it has various effects on one’s physical health that can be detrimental. Luckily, most of the mental and physical effects of depression are treatable.