Medication side-effects can seem unbearable at times: dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, constipation. Certain prescriptions can also increase our risks for developing chronic conditions like thyroid disease and diabetes.
Three years ago, I decided that the pills’ side-effects weren’t worth the relief they brought, so I slowly weaned off all my medication. I then plummeted into a severe depression that ended up taking a far greater toll on my health than the nuisance of my drugs.
You may be justifiably concerned about how your mood stabilizer and antidepressant are altering your biochemistry, but also consider the grave consequences of untreated depression. A 2007 Norwegian study found that those participants with significant depression symptoms had a higher risk of death from most major causes, including heart disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses, and conditions of the nervous system. In other words, the side-effects of untreated depression are more threatening than those of our meds.
Here are eight health risks of untreated depression:
1. Cognitive Decline
Left untreated, major depressive disorder (MDD) literally changes your brain. A study published online in The Lancet Psychiatry measured brain inflammation in 25 people with more than a decade of MDD and 30 people without depression. The depressed group had inflammation levels of approximately 30 percent higher in certain brain regions including the prefrontal cortex, responsible for reasoning, concentration, and other executive functions.
Given this data, researchers argue that depression is not unlike other degenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s, that are progressive if not treated.
Depression is associated with a significantly increased risk for diabetes. In a meta-analysis of 23 studies published in the
Researchers speculate that the underlying cause for the elevated risks lies in the challenge for depressed persons to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle behaviors such as exercising and eating right, causing higher cortisol levels and inflammation.
3. Chronic Pain
In a study published in
According to a one review in
4. Heart Disease
The connection between heart disease and depression is well established. Depression and anxiety affect heart rhythms, increase blood pressure, elevate insulin and cholesterol levels, and raise levels of stress hormones. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, three in 20 Americans with heart disease experience depression compared to the one in 20 average of people without heart disease.
5. Autoimmune Disorders
Depression and autoimmune disorders share the common denominators of inflammation and stress. According to a review in
6. Gastrointestinal Problems
People with depression often report stomach or digestion problems, such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, or constipation. Some people with depression also have chronic conditions, including IBS. According to
7. Osteoporosis and Lower Bone Density
According to research from Harvard University of Jerusalem, depressed people have a substantially lower bone density than non-depressed people and depression is associated with an elevated activity of cells that breakdown bone (osteoclasts). This association was stronger in women than men, and especially in younger women during the end of their period. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, depression is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Researchers found that depression triggers the release of noradrenaline, which interferes with bone-building cells.
Migraine and depression happen together. According to a study published in the