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depression impacts physical health
September 25, 2020

How Depression Impacts Your Physical Health

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions worldwide, and is also a leading cause of disability and suicide. You may think of depression as solely a mood disorder, but it can adversely affect your overall well-being because of the intertwined nature of your physical and mental health. To help you understand more, let’s take an in-depth look at the top five ways depression impacts your physical health. 

1. It Can Cause You to Neglect Personal Hygiene

Good grooming is a crucial part of staying physically well and preventing illness. However, the actions mentally healthy people take for granted may seem impossible for people living with major depression.

Poor hygiene habits are often one of the most notable warning signs of depression. If you struggle with depression, even the smallest daily tasks can feel like an insurmountable challenge to complete. During severe depressive episodes, you might not have enough energy to do routine self-care like brushing your teeth, doing your laundry or washing your hair. 

2. Depression Can Lead to Digestive Problems

Eating a balanced diet can help improve your mood, but depression can wreak havoc on your nutrition. Some people lose their appetite and forget to eat, while others might put on weight from binge-eating unhealthy “comfort foods” to mitigate their symptoms. Digestive problems associated with depression include stomachaches, cramps, constipation and malnutrition. 

3. Depression Is a Significant Cause of Chronic Stress

There’s also a close relationship between depression and stress. Mood disorders can cause or worsen stress, triggering a prolonged “fight-or-flight” response in your body. The cascade of hormones associated with stress has the evolutionary purpose of allowing you to assess and quickly respond to dangers in your environment, but people with chronic stress feel anxious even when there is no threat present. 

Many of the health effects of chronic stress – like insomnia, headaches, weight gain and digestive issues – are also symptoms of depression. Chronic stress also impacts your physical health by increasing the likelihood that you’ll develop heart disease.

4. Self-Harm Is a Depression Symptom  

Some people with mood disorders may deliberately cut, bruise, scratch or burn themselves to cope with their intense emotional distress. The internal conflicts associated with depression can cause people to hurt themselves in hopes of exerting control over challenging circumstances. Self-harm isn’t the same as a suicide attempt, nor is it necessarily meant as a cry for help. However, it is an extreme response to anguish, trauma or grief.   

5. It May Lead to Substance Misuse Issues

Depression and addiction often go hand in hand, to the extent that even experienced mental professionals can have trouble diagnosing which came first. The symptoms of untreated depression, such as loneliness, insomnia and feelings of emptiness, often lead people to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. While these substances might provide temporary relief, they can also give rise to a growing tolerance and a reliance on intoxicants to feel “normal.” 

Addiction also worsens both mental and physical well-being and can lead to a range of health issues like malnutrition, high blood pressure, liver disease and some forms of cancer. Alcohol and drug use can lead to reckless, dangerous or irresponsible behavior, including driving under the influence, having unprotected sex or being abusive toward people who care about you. 

High-Quality Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

When addition and depression occur simultaneously, mental health professionals call it a dual diagnosis. Successfully treating both illnesses requires an approach that addresses them simultaneously. To untangle complicated emotions, you’ll need to get to the heart of the issue at a facility that specializes in dual-diagnosis treatment

If you have been abusing alcohol or drugs to ease your symptoms of depression, get an accurate diagnosis and a personalized treatment program at Beach House, one of Newsweek’s Best Addiction Centers 2020. To learn more about our clinical excellence practices and our private, resort-like campus, contact our caring admissions counselors today.

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