Symptoms, Causes and Effects of Chronic Depression

Scared Teenage Girl Sitting In Bedroom

Everyone gets depressed at some point in their life. You may feel blue and down in the dumps. Or you may feel listless and exhausted. That’s a normal part of life, even if it affects your appetite or sleep to a certain degree. These feelings are temporary for most people.

But chronic, long-term depression is a different animal altogether. Chronic depression can be triggered by any number of negative life events, such as the sudden loss of a loved one, a serious injury, loss of a job, or even aging. The American Psychiatric Association has identified the most common symptoms of clinical depression. They include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed like hobbies, sports, and social activities
  • Significant changes in appetite resulting in weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue, listlessness, and lack of energy
  • Restless and nervous behavior, such as pacing or fidgeting
  • Slowing of speech and movement
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Impaired thinking, concentration, and decision-making ability
  • Persistent thoughts of death and suicide
  • Headaches and other aches and pains

For a diagnosis of depression to be made, five or more of these symptoms must continue for a period of at least two weeks. The APA further states that depression affects 1 in 10 people each year, usually first appearing in the late teens into the mid-twenties, but depression can occur at any age. Women are more prone to depression than men, with as many as one-third experiencing serious depression at some time in their lives.

Depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, most often by a lack of serotonin. Genetics can also play a role. Medical conditions such as a thyroid problem, brain injury, and vitamin deficiency can create symptoms similar to depression and must be ruled out as a cause.

Physiological Effects of Chronic Depression

Sad man

Depression doesn’t just affect the mind. Left untreated, it can lead to a number of serious physical conditions and diseases. Many of these are the result of harmful behaviors that can be brought on by depression including smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, sleep disruptions and lack of exercise.

With all the health problems associated with those behaviors, excessive drinking can itself cause depression, leading to more drinking in a vicious cycle.

Additionally, chronic depression has been shown to weaken the immune system, making the sufferer more susceptible to illness. Vaccinations are less effective when depression is present. A person with depression is at a greater risk for a host of diseases and conditions including:

  • Heart attacks and coronary artery disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Lupus and multiple sclerosis
  • Strokes
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Kidney diseases
  • HIV and AIDS

Depression has a debilitating effect on the entire body, mentally and physically. It is very likely to lapse into a serious physical condition if left untreated. Unfortunately, chronic depression often goes undiagnosed due to the stigma attached to it. Many people still view depression as a sign of weakness rather than the treatable illness that it is, and decline to seek treatment.

Getting Treatment for Depression

Getting treatment for depression will not only make you feel better, it will improve your overall health. Psychotherapy, support groups, and antidepressant medications are very effective at combatting the symptoms of depression. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and dietary supplements can also make a world of difference. Professional guidance is essential. If any of the above sounds like you, give us a call today for a private consultation. It’s always confidential, and it will change your life.