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5 Health Conditions That Can Lead to Depression


Elizabeth Hanes, RN

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You may think of depression as a condition that stands alone, unrelated to your overall general health. It’s true many healthy people experience episodes of depression that aren’t linked to a separate physical illness. But depression also can go hand-in-hand with chronic illnesses or sudden injuries. When that happens, being depressed not only affects your mood and your relationships, it may actually impair your ability to recover from the underlying medical condition If you have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, you should be alert to possible signs of depression. If you experience one of these five depression-associated health problems, be alert to signs of a mood disorder and take action to treat it.

1. Injury

If you maintain an active lifestyle, be prepared to experience a potential bout of depression if an injury prevents you from exercising. As you probably know, exercise sets off a cascade of hormones in your brain that make you feel good. Some athletes describe this phenomenon as “runner’s high.” When you sustain an injury--whether it’s from over-training or some sort of trauma, like a car accident--and you can’t exercise, your brain feels deprived of those wonderful chemicals and may respond with an episode of depression. If your injury lingers longer than a month and causes you to feel sad, overly frustrated or listless, you could be depressed. Doctor-ordered physical therapy or antidepressant medications might make you feel better.

2. Childbirth

Women have long recognized a condition called the “baby blues.” No one knows exactly what causes postpartum depression, but researchers think it could be triggered by hormone fluctuations before and after childbirth. A brief period of anxiety, sadness or tearfulness after giving birth may be normal and clear up on its own within a month or so. But if you experience depression that starts or persists more than a month after you’ve had a baby, or if your feelings include rage, irritability or sensations of being “disconnected” from the world, you should discuss the possibility of postpartum depression with your doctor. Medications and talk therapy may enable you to enjoy motherhood again.

3. Chronic Pain

It’s no fun to be in pain all the time. In fact, it’s downright depressing. So it should come as no surprise that you may be at a higher risk of developing depression if you experience chronic pain due to a medical condition like arthritis or a functional problem like damaged spinal discs that cause your back to ache all the time. If you find yourself feeling hopeless about the future due to chronic pain, you should consider speaking to your healthcare provider. Treating your depression may even decrease your physical pain level, for a double dose of mood elevation.

4. Loss of Hearing or Sight

Many people expect their hearing and vision to decline with age, but they may not expect these functional declines to cause depression. When you cannot hear or see well, you might feel less connected with your family and the world at large. If you or a loved one lives with decreased hearing or vision, be alert for signs of withdrawal from daily life. This could be a sign of depression. Treating the hearing or vision loss is a good first step in addressing the depressive symptoms, but you also should consider treating the depression itself.

5. Chronic Medical Conditions

A variety of chronic medical conditions may be associated with depression. This makes sense, because coping with a lifelong illness can be difficult and make you feel sad or hopeless. If you have cancer, heart disease, breathing problems, a neurological condition like Parkinson’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, an autoimmune disorder like lupus, or any other chronic condition, you should be alert to feelings of depression. You likely can improve your quality of life and cope with your chronic disease better if you address any underlying mental health issues that occur.

Anti-depressive therapy takes many forms today--well beyond popping a pill. The internet abounds with online communities and support groups that can bolster your sense of well-being. Seek out associations related to your chronic disease and connect with others who share the same struggles. You can receive moral support--and give it, too. In fact, helping others face their challenges might be one of the best things you can do for your own mental health.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 31, 2017

© 2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. What illnesses often co-exist with depression? National Institute of Mental Health.
  2. Postpartum depression. National Institutes of Health.
  3. Katon, WJ. Epidemiology and treatment of depression in patients with chronic medical illness. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2011 Mar; 13(1): 7–23.

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