Depression is a common mental illness, affecting about 26 percent of adults. It is a brain disorder that can lead to much emotional anguish and pain. Abnormal functioning of brain messengers (neurotransmitters) such as serotonin can alter your pain threshold. This means you become more sensitive to pain, especially back pain. Serotonin also affects sleep and lowers sex drive — nearly half of everybody with depression has problems with sex. Patient may suffer memory loss and increased reaction time during everyday activities compared with normal old people or younger persons. Symptoms of depression include overwhelming sadness, grief, and a sense of guilt. One may feel tired all the time or have trouble sleeping at night. Other symptoms include: irritability, anger, and loss of interest in things that used to bring pleasure. Depression can cause headaches, chronic body aches, and pain that may not respond to medication. Researchers found that sleep troubles, fatigue, and worries about health are reliable indicators of depression in older adults. But, they found, these signs are routinely and incorrectly dismissed as a natural part of aging.
Depression can lead to physical disease and vice versa
In a case presenting with physical symptoms like pain may have depression as the underlying cause and tests may be reported as normal. However, the doctor will try to identify any major health concerns that may be contributing to symptoms of clinical depression. For example, hypothyroidism — caused by an underactive thyroid gland — is the most common medical condition associated with depressive symptoms. Other endocrine disorders associated with depression include hyperthyroidism — caused by an overactive thyroid — and Cushing’s disease — a disorder of the adrenal gland. Many central nervous system illnesses and injuries can also lead to depression. For example, depression might be associated with any of the following conditions: Central nervous system tumors, Head trauma, Multiple sclerosis, Stroke, Syphilis, Various cancers ( pancreas, prostate, breast) etc. Corticosteroid medications such as prednisone, which people take for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or asthma, are also associated with depression. Other drugs, including steroids and amphetamines and over-the-counter appetite suppressants, may cause depression on withdrawal.
Other tests that may be asked to discover underlying diseases may include blood tests for electrolytes, liver function, toxicology screening, and kidney function, because the kidneys and liver are responsible for the elimination of depression medications. Impairment to either of these two organs may cause the drugs to accumulate in the body. Other tests may sometimes include: CT scan or MRI of the brain to rule out serious illnesses such as a brain tumor, Electrocardiogram (ECG) to diagnose some heart problems, Electroencephalogram (EEG) to record electrical activity of the brain etc.
Other conditions causing depression
It’s also sometimes a symptom of other condition such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. Some people who are depressed may turn to alcohol or drugs, which may increase instances of reckless or abusive behavior. Depression may be more difficult to detect in children who can’t articulate their symptoms. Behaviors you may want to look out in children may include persistent clinginess, worry, and unwillingness to attend school. Children may also be excessively irritable and negative. Depression can play a heavy role in appetite and nutrition. Some people cope by overeating. This can lead to weight gain and obesity-related illnesses, such as diabetes. Else one may lose appetite entirely, or fail to eat the right amount of nutritious food. A sudden loss of interest in eating in older adults can lead to a condition called geriatric anorexia. Eating problems can lead to symptoms that include: stomachaches, cramps, constipation, and malnutrition. Sweets and foods high in carbohydrates may provide immediate relief, but is no solution in the long run.
Depression and stress are closely related
Stress speeds heart rate and make blood vessels tighten, putting your body in a prolonged state of emergency. Over time, this can lead to heart disease. Untreated, depression raises the risk of dying after a heart attack. On the other hand Heart disease is also a trigger for depression. Depression and stress may have a negative impact on the immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections and diseases.
Several infective diseases can also cause depression viz. HIV, NeurosyphiliS, Hepatitis C etc. Cancers of various organs and systems are often associated depression.
According to a study,
the most common vitamin and nutritional deficiencies causing depression are:
omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, amino acids. Deficiency of vitamins
can cause several symptoms including depression e g Vitamin b12 deficiency can
lead to Megaloblastic anemia, Decreased appetite, pancytopenia, Paresthesias,
Dementia, Glossitis, Ataxia, Irritability besides Depressed mood. Folic acid
deficiency may cause Ataxia, Dementia, Impaired vibratory sensation, Hyper- or
hyporeflexia, Macrocytic anemia besides depressed mood.
Treating Depression, Improving Health
By now, you know that your physical and mental health perform a delicate dance, greatly affecting each other. The symptoms of depression and non-psychiatric medical conditions may overlap. So, it’s important to discuss all your symptoms and health conditions with your doctor. Also review any medications you’re taking. Some can cause symptoms of depression
The good news is that depression treatment is often a “two-for-one” — by treating the depression, you can also improve your overall health. For example, some diabetes research suggests that certain antidepressant medications and psychotherapy may help improve glycemic control, which is necessary in diabetes management. Managing depression with medication, support groups, or psychotherapy — or a combination — has been shown to improve quality of life as well as adherence to treatment — but not survival — for some cancer patients, many of whom receive no depression treatment. In addition to antidepressants and talk therapy, exercise may help.