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Depression as a Precursor to other Health Conditions

Shannon M. Duffy, MFT, LCPC

Addressing your mental health is essential for overall health and wellness for so many reasons, beyond just the need to feel better about your outlook on life. Those who have a greater genetic risk for depression are also at greater risk for other physical and mental health conditions. As we have become known to this risk, assessing for depression is a must in all fields within medical, dentistry, and functional medicine. Of course, mental health providers will assess the levels of depression that coincide with other mood disorders such as anxiety, social phobias, and panic disorders. Depression can also lead to substance abuse concerns. In addition to the mental health concerns that depression can spark, there are physical concerns to be aware of that depression can lead to or be a symptom to.

When depression and anxiety are present one main concern is how our stress levels are impacted to raise our cortisol levels which can lead into many physical concerns. Our stress response tends to feel out of whack with depression and can inhibit our immune system from functioning effectively. Depression can in turn cause headaches, chronic body aches, and pain. Ideally it is helpful to address if one’s presenting concerns meets criteria for depression or could also be a precursor to medical concerns such as fibromyalgia, or rheumatoid arthritis. Pain is one of the symptoms that needs to have high priority in regard understanding if the pain is causing the depression or if there is a medical concern from depression that is the pain. Many individuals who have been injured or are in recovery from accidents can feel depression as a result of their situation. Pain is also one of the main factors that leads to suicide. It is one of the symptoms to not take lightly as many mental health therapists can aid in chronic pain management and validate the depression.

Depression can also influence on other conditions such as asthma, heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity and diabetes. As your stress levels are heightened that can increase to high blood pressure to cause inflammation which could also lead to heart disease. Other major concerns as your immune system becomes impaired could even lead to cancer. Higher levels of cortisol can speed up bone loss which could raise the risk of fractures and in turn Osteoporosis. In addition to the physical conditions, depression can also affect certain neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.

The risks associated with Major depressive Disorder are alarming, however, the main take away is to be more aware of how you are feeling and ideally proactive towards getting well and staying well. Depression symptoms typically include sadness, tiredness, trouble focusing or concentrating, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, sleep concerns, change in food consumptions, and isolation. Many individuals will present feelings of anger, unhappiness, frustration, anxiety, which could leave to suicidal thoughts.

Understanding depression and assessing one’s symptoms to be able to combat and get well to stay well for overall health and wellness. Mental health therapy can provide tools and resources to help assess depressive symptoms and provide structure towards staying healthy through meditation, exercise or basic movements, creating a healthy sleep routine, and focusing on healthy food consumption. The body and mind connection are important to acknowledge and if you are feeling down to help address it right away so it does not have a possibility to create any more distress.

If you’re looking for a therapist in Chicago, we can help you. Contact Symmetry Counseling today.

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