The Physical Effects of Depression

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Depression is often known and characterized by the severe emotional and psychological effects it produces. However, the effects of depression can be physical too. Depression is associated with a multitude of physical symptoms on top of all its emotional ones. Depression has been associated with the development of cataracts, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease as well as migraines.

Heart Disease

Depression, especially long-lasting severe depression, has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Depression increases the risk of heart disease by decreasing the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in the body and increasing triglycerides, blood pressure, and stress levels. Each increase contributes to an increased risk for heart disease. The link between depression and heart disease is believed to be caused by inflammation in the body; stress releases inflammatory molecules called cytokines that can cause damage to blood vessels.


Possibly the most well-known physical symptom of depression is migraines. Migraines are severe headaches that are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and other symptoms. The exact cause is not yet known for migraines, but they are strongly associated with stress and anxiety. It has been shown that stress causes muscle contractions in the head and neck region that may be responsible for migraine pain.


Cataracts are a type of eye disease in which deposits of a thick, soft, yellowish-gray material called cataractous lens in the lens of the eye. The increased level of beta-amyloid peptides found in the brain cells of people with depression appears to cause changes in the way lipid metabolism works. It has been suggested that this increased level may be associated with cataracts.

Lung Disease

There is a higher prevalence of lung disease in people who suffer from depression than in the general population. Lung disease, such as COPD and emphysema, is associated with inflammation and oxidative stress. Both autism and depression have been linked with increased levels of oxidative stress on the body. The link between lung disease and depression may be caused by increased vulnerability to such diseases due to such changes on the body.

Blood Pressure

In one study by Hamad et al. (2009), depression was associated with raised blood pressure. Also, after adjustment for age and other factors, the use of tricyclic and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants were shown to significantly lower blood pressure. However, other studies have not supported this finding.

Treating Depression

Depression can be treated with psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, or talking therapy, helps people who are depressed to find ways to cope with their problems and develop positive coping skills. It is based on helping you change how you think about your problems by using “thought-stopping” techniques which allow you to analyze your thoughts and feelings in a more effective way.

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