Depression may appear to those who have never experienced it as no more than a bad case of the blues. We imagine someone who is depressed all of the time or who has attempted suicide. But, when it comes to depressive symptoms, this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is a mental condition with physical symptoms that wreak havoc on the body as well as the mind, according to science.
Depression and the Immune System: A Close Connection
The immune system is one of the places where we see depression’s physical symptoms. It’s still unknown if immune system issues cause depression or whether depression causes immune system issues. But one thing is certain: the two are inextricably connected.
This makes perfect sense when you think about it. Sleep, stress, food, and social factors have been known to have a significant impact on our immune system’s ability to operate. We’ve also known that excessive stress, sleep disturbances, eating abnormalities, and social isolation are all common indicators of depression. Is it really that difficult to see how these two are closely linked?
A recent mice study found a link between stress, depression, and immunological function. Mice exposed to stress on a regular basis generated an immunological response that released inflammatory proteins into the system, according to the findings. This inflammation resulted in brain atrophy and impaired responses, which led to common depressive behaviors. This cascade of events strongly suggests a causal association between stress, immunological function, and depression.
When it comes to cause and effect, there are three possibilities that may explain the tie:
- Depression can decrease the immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness.
- Mood disorders such as depression can be caused by major or long-term illnesses.
- In certain circumstances, the same causes that induce sadness might also cause illnesses or ailments.
Each of these scenarios is equally possible, and there is currently insufficient evidence to determine which is the most prevalent. But what does the connection mean for those who struggle with depression or illness?
Most Common Illnesses Related to Depression
Because of this strong relationship, those who suffer from depression may be more susceptible to illness than most people. They may be more susceptible to infectious diseases, but non-communicable diseases must also be considered.
- Heart Disease
Energy deficiency is a common symptom of depression. It can also lead individuals to make poor life decisions, especially when it comes to long-term consequences. Bad diet, lack of exercise, and poor sleeping habits can all contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, people who were hospitalized with serious illnesses were 62 percent more likely than average to have a mood disorder.
- Autoimmune Diseases
Hospital visits due to autoimmune disease were linked to a 45 percent increased risk of mood disorders like depression, according to the same JAMA article. Graves’ disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and other autoimmune diseases can induce unusually low or excessive immune activity. They can also result in long-term pain or impairment, which has been linked to depression in some individuals.