Living with depression is common, but it can also be difficult, particularly when the condition goes untreated.
The effects of depression are often a challenge for both people living with the condition and their loved ones. In fact, more than
The common misconceptions about depression don’t make it any easier. It’s not about feeling sad or down, not trying hard enough, or something you can put on hold at will.
Depression is a mental health condition that affects all aspects of your life. Symptoms usually last two weeks or more, and they can go on for years in some cases.
The condition doesn’t feel or look the same for everyone. It’s not uncommon to look at a list of depression symptoms and not identify with some of them. Your experience is nonetheless valid.
Regardless of how you live with depression and its effects, help is available and can improve your quality of life. But what happens when depression goes untreated?
Despite being a mental health condition, depression can still affect the rest of your body.
Physical side effects of depression usually appear progressively and sometimes for no obvious reason. At first, you might not even associate your physical symptoms with how you feel.
When you have depression, you might begin feeling very tired even after a good night’s sleep. You could also experience aches and pains without any apparent cause.
For example, you might feel as if you’re coming down with the flu, but you never get flu symptoms beyond fatigue and body aches.
Depression might also affect your sexual life, decreasing your libido or sexual performance. Sometimes you won’t feel interested at all. Other times, you’ll feel too tired to engage.
These are some of the most common effects of depression on your body:
- chronic pain
- chronic inflammation
- headaches or migraines
- constipation or diarrhea
- nausea and vomiting
- chronic fatigue that doesn’t go away after resting
- changes in sleep patterns
- changes in weight
- changes in appetite
- decreased sex drive or dyspareunia (pain during sex)
- increased chance of autoimmune disorders
Depression can also increase your chance of developing physical conditions.
For example, a
One of the greatest challenges with the physical effects of depression is that they, in turn, might make your other symptoms worse. For example, not being able to sleep can lead to more aches and pains.
The side effects of depression on the brain can, in turn, affect your emotional well-being. This not only includes your favorite activities and your job but also your personal and professional relationships or activities.
When you live with untreated depression, you may notice your productivity decline. This could affect you at work or school.
You could also experience the effects of depression on attention and memory performance. It might be difficult for you to recall newly learned information, for example.
Untreated depression might also lead you to isolation. You may feel like staying home more often and start passing on gatherings with close friends or family.
Keeping up with your social connections could make you feel overwhelmed and drained.
Other psychosocial effects of depression include:
- loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities or hobbies
- harder time concentrating on your tasks
- feeling frustrated, restless, or irritable without any apparent reason
- persistent anxiety or sadness that’s not necessarily connected to a specific event
- feeling helpless, vulnerable, guilty, or worthless
- having a pessimistic or hopeless outlook about your life
- difficulty with decision-making
Treating depression is advisable in every case but it becomes a priority if you:
- think about hurting yourself or others
- have suicidal thoughts and fantasies
- don’t have the energy or will to fulfill your duties (e.g., taking care of your children)
- feel your symptoms are worsening
For some, depression can be a debilitating mental health condition. It can make it difficult for you to get out of bed in the morning or have a productive and fulfilling day.
With this in mind, depression is recognized in some cases as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This makes it possible for people living with severe depression to have accommodations made for them at work or allows them to receive financial support.
Depression is fully manageable and treatable, and recovery is possible.
If you’ve experienced untreated depression for a long time, some effects might not be reversed. For example, chronic inflammation in your body might have already caused some physical changes.
This is not always the case, though. Some effects and symptoms of depression can be fully reversed.
Seeking the help of a health professional might help diminish the effects of depression on your body. It can also help you manage your current symptoms and prevent future occurrences.
There are different types of depression that may require specific treatment plans.
In general, side effects of depression can be treated with:
- Medication. Antidepressants are a common form of treatment for depression. Consider discussing the side effects of depression medication with your health care team.
- Therapy. Counseling for people with depression is often built on evidence-based approaches like:
- Brain stimulation therapy. This type of therapy may include electroconvulsive therapy, vagus nerve stimulation, or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. It might help you cope with some of the chronic effects of depression.
Coping with depression symptoms sometimes begins with small lifestyle adjustments. This could complement the efforts of traditional treatment.
There are some things that you can do in your daily life to help you or someone close to you better manage this condition.
For example, you could:
- Move more often. Consider adding a few minutes of exercise and activity to your daily routine. Staying active will help you feel better in time.
- Follow a nutrient-rich diet. One
2017 studyfound that people who followed diets rich in fruits and vegetables carried a lower chance of developing depression.
- Keep connected with friends and relatives. This could include spending some time on the phone, video calls, or having a cup of coffee together.
- Open up. If possible, talk about your feelings and thoughts with someone you trust. This might be challenging, but explaining your symptoms to other people might help them provide you the support you need.
- Set realistic expectations. This not only goes for your personal and professional life but also for your treatment.
- Learn more about depression. Understanding this condition is key to living with it.
- Set goals. Setting daily or weekly goals that are meaningful to you might help. A goal could be as simple as calling a friend, walking to your local park, or spending time outdoors every day.
Depression can sometimes have profound effects on your mind and body.
Symptoms and side effects of depression can be managed with the help of a mental health professional. When treatment is sought, it can be possible to improve your quality of life.
If you or someone you love is living with depression, these resources might be the first step to recovery: