Depression not only affects a person’s mind and quality of life, it takes a huge toll on their body and health as well. It can be at least as disabling as chronic diseases like high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, back problems, asthma, celiac disease, etc. Why? Because depression IS a disease – and a serious one, at that.
What compounds the problems for an individual suffering from depression is the fact that most people don’t truly understand what depression is and most just don’t get that it is an illness. Ignorantly, they tend to think, “Just snap out of it.” They don’t realize that this is akin to telling an asthmatic, “Just breathe” or someone in a coma, “Wake up, already.”
Depression is serious and it has to be treated as such.
How can depression affect one’s physical health? Several ways, unfortunately. First of all, if someone has a chronic disease, depression makes it far worse to cope and recover. Depressed patients tend to have less fight in them, they have to go to the doctor more often, they stay in the hospital longer, and they simply lack the positive mindset needed for healing.
Second of all, depression can actually weaken one’s immunity. Even mild mood swings take their toll on an immune system. Studies show that on days when a person’s feeling really down, the levels of antibodies in saliva drop. It’s these antibodies, of course, that defend us against viruses. Fewer antibodies to fight off disease means more sicknesses, more illnesses, and compromised over-all health.
So it’s not surprising that depressed people get sick more often than those who are not. They tend to even have more colds than those who are not depressed. Simply put, depression is a disease that leaves you susceptible to a wide range of other diseases.
As if that’s not enough, people who are depressed have more sleep problems than other people do. In fact, sleep disorders are quite common with depression. Instead of asking “What areas of one’s life does depression touch?” it’d be easier to ask, “What areas of one’s life does depression NOT touch?”
A few other eye opening statistics:
- A study found that the thinning of bones known as osteoporosis is greater in depressed people.
- Rates of stroke are twice as high amongst depressed individuals.
- Depressed patients with coronary disease are more likely to have heart attacks, undergo bypass surgery, and suffer further heart-related complications.
- Amongst heart attack survivors, depression increased the risk of dying within six months by three to four times.
Fortunately, depression is easy to treat. Unfortunately it’s just as easy to ignore.
What are the symptoms of depression?
- Feeling persistently sad, blue or down in the dumps. When there are seemingly always tears behind your eyes waiting to drop.
- Losing interest in things you once enjoyed.
- Feeling anxious, fearful, worried, irritable, tearful, or hopeless.
- Feeling overly guilty, worthless, or helpless.
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, remembering details, or even completing a thought.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Frequent aches and pains.
- Appetite changes.
- Stomach discomfort.
- Thoughts of harming yourself.
If more than one of these symptoms hits home, you may be depressed. If life has been particularly challenging, you may not be depressed as much as you are simply having one of those weeks.
Or months! Been there, done that, never want to go back.
We all have bad periods of time in our life. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between a bad mood or depression. The trick, according to the experts, lies in the extent to which we experience the above feeling and the length of time they hover over our lives.
For example, a cat I dearly love and have had for over 17 years is going down faster than I ever imagined. I’ve been, understandably, sad because of it – but I’m still able to function. At least as well as I ever have. I know what’s causing me to feel less than 100% happy. I’m losing one of my best friends! I just looked over and this beautiful best friend has her head in my glass lapping up my iced tea.
Attagirl, gobble those antitoxins.
Those who are depressed often can’t pin down their sadness – they feel that life has just ceased to be worthwhile, let alone fun – which leads to more frustration, followed by more sadness, etc. It’s such a horrible cycle that it’s little wonder it affects their entire body.
If you feel like it would be easy for you to slip into a depressing frame of mind, start fighting against it now with all you have. If you’re already there – please don’t assume that this is how life is or that this is “normal.” Never settle for anything in life – you deserve SO much more.
Contact your family doctor if you feel that you may be suffering from depression. He or she will be able to tell you if you are, in fact, clinically depressed or if you simply are having trouble coping with certain issues in life. If this is the case, the answer may be as simple as talking things through with a therapist.
More often than not, someone on the outside can act as a lighthouse for you. They’ll shine light on what you’re currently unable to see… then they’ll help guide you to the shore.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get another glass of iced tea and spend time with a much-loved member of the family – doing whatever she wants to do. If she wants to watch birds outside the window, we’ll do that, if she wants to slap around one of her favorite toys, we’ll do that.
EDIT: My beautiful cat, Prissy, actually went on to live three more years! Proof that tea may be healthier than we ever imagined. This much-loved cat was notorious in our family for always finding unattended glasses of iced tea and helping herself. Basically, if you turned your back on your glass of tea, you knew not to drink it when you got back to it – someone with whiskers had been there lapping it up. I’ll always miss her, but I just feel so blessed that we had her precious face in our lives for so many (many, many, many!) years.
Prissy always loved to lick the inside lid of my Green Tea Frappuccinos. She’d get so serious about the whole matter!