8 Ways Depression is Dangerous for Your Health

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Healthgrades Editorial Staff on July 9, 2021
  • Sad woman
    8 Ways Depression Is Dangerous for Your Health
    You know that depression is dangerous for your mental health. But did you know it’s also dangerous for your physical health? Untreated or uncontrolled depression can take a big toll on you physically. Depression can make you sick and keep you from taking care of yourself when you are sick. A depression treatment plan can help you avoid these eight health risks linked to depression.
  • Close-up of Caucasian man's hand holding cigarette with smoke swirling around
    1. Depression and Heart Disease
    Studies show that depression can lead to heart disease, make heart disease worse, and make it more difficult to recover from complications of heart disease. Depression can even increase your risk of having a heart attack. Having depression increases your risk of dying by nearly 20 percent in the first six months after a heart attack. Lifestyle habits that often go along with depression—like poor diet, smoking, drinking, and not exercising—are also bad for heart health.
  • Diabetes test
    2. Depression and Diabetes
    Depression may increase your risk for type 2 diabetes if it causes you to eat poorly, smoke, gain weight, and skip exercising. If you already have diabetes or prediabetes, depression can keep you from doing the things necessary to manage your diabetes. No matter which comes first, statistics show that about 20 percent of people with diabetes also have depression. Left untreated, depression and diabetes are a dangerous combination.
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    3. Depression and Obesity
    If you’re depressed, you have a higher risk of being obese. In fact, depression may increase your risk for obesity by 58 percent. If you’re obese, you have a higher risk of being depressed. This is partly because eating is a way to self-medicate when feeling depressed, and not exercising. Depression may also cause you to secrete stress hormones that promote belly fat.
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    4. Depression and Mental Decline
    Long-standing depression can contribute to loss of brainpower. This is especially true if you are elderly. Brain scans of elderly people with depression show shrinkage in certain areas of the brain that is more significant than among elderly people without depression. Untreated depression early in life increases your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, becoming senile, and having a stroke. The more episodes of depression you have over time, the higher your risk.
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    5. Depression and Substance Abuse
    If you have depression and you aren’t getting the right treatment, you may be tempted to treat your symptoms with drugs or alcohol. What’s more, these substances make depression harder to treat. It’s also true that abusing drugs or alcohol can lead to depression. Either way, drugs, alcohol, and depression make a dangerous combination. This is why it’s so important to get help for depression or a substance abuse problem.
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    6. Depression and Cancer
    Up to 25 percent of people with cancer also have depression. Some studies show that depression’s effect on your immune system can make cancer worse. In one study, patients with breast cancer and depression were found to have a higher rate of cancer recurrence and early death. Studies also show that patients with depression and cancer have faster tumor growth. Treatment for depression and participation in support groups can help boost mood and offset emotional distress while undergoing treatment for cancer.
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    7. Depression and Pain
    Chronic pain can lead to depression, and having untreated depression can make pain worse. If you have major depression, you’re three times more likely to experience migraine headaches. Studies show that people with depression are 50 percent more likely to complain of physical symptoms like pain when they visit a doctor. Depression makes pain harder to treat, and pain makes depression worse. The stressful combination of pain and depression can lead to isolation and more depression.
  • Young Caucasian man with eyes closed and head leaned against wall looking down
    8. Depression and Suicide
    The most dangerous risk from untreated depression is suicide; the risk increases when substance abuse is involved. Two-thirds of all suicides are caused by depression. If you ever have thoughts of death or suicide, you need help right away. Warning signs of suicide with depression include giving away favorite possessions, becoming suddenly cheerful, and talking about death as an escape. If suicide seems like a way out, you need to call 911.
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    Who to Talk to About Depression
    If you have symptoms of depression that last for more than two weeks, get help. Depression is a treatable disease, but without treatment, it can become a dangerous condition with a number of complications. Start with your primary care doctor. You may be referred to a psychiatrist. Other depression caregivers include psychologists, social workers, therapists, and counselors trained in talk therapy for depression.
8 Ways Depression is Dangerous for Your Health

About The Author

The Healthgrades Editorial Staff is an experienced team of in-house editors, writers and content producers. Our team has a wealth of experience in the fields of journalism, TV and video production and the healthcare industry. We are committed to providing our audience with actionable content and tools to help them make the best decision when it comes to choosing a healthcare professional.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 9
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