Can Depression Kill You: Best 101 Guide to the Fatal Disease

Now and then, we hear someone say, “I am depressed”. Though we link depression with every other normal unwanted emotion or sadness, it is much more than that. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

It’s estimated that 280 million people will suffer from depression at some point in their lives—and this number only includes those who have been diagnosed!

Depression is not only debilitating; it can be fatal. When left untreated, depression is more likely to kill you than any other medical condition.

It’s important to remember that depression is a severe medical condition that requires proper diagnosis and treatment, including medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and self-care.

Can depression kill you? Keep on reading to discover!

1. What Is Depression?

Overview of depression | APA

Before going into depth, you need to understand what depression is.

Although this may be a bit of an oversimplification, depression can be thought of as a loss of interest in things that you used to find pleasurable or a loss of the ability to experience pleasure.

This includes not caring about things you used to enjoy and not getting satisfaction from activities that previously gave you pleasure.

Depression also causes changes in mood, such as feeling sad or irritable more often than usual.

2. Root Causes of Your Depression

What Causes Depression?

The main causes of depression can be put into four major categories:

2.1. Genetics/Family History

Depression is passed on to some extent. This implies that if you have a close family member who has suffered from depression, such as a parent or sibling, you are more likely to get the illness yourself.

To test whether or not depression is inherited, scientists investigated twins and discovered that in 40%-50% of them, if one twin had Major Depressive Disorder, the other twin also did.

Nevertheless, not every case of depression has a hereditary component, and you are not predisposed to depression simply because your ancestors have.

2.2. Personality

People with poor self-esteem, pessimism, or who become overwhelmed by life’s demands are more prone to depression. Neurotic people experience dread, despair, guilt, rage, jealousy, and increased rates of depression.

2.3. Biochemistry

Biochemical abnormalities can exacerbate anxiety and sadness in the brain. This is particularly true for depression if the front lobe of the cerebrum is less functional. Still, researchers aren’t clear if this happens before or after developing depressive symptoms.

Neurotransmitters are molecules that transport messages to and from the brain. When they don’t operate correctly, messages to the brain that notify it when something enjoyable is happening aren’t received.

2.4. Environmental

MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) can be caused by the environment where people now live or grew up. Abuse, neglect, cruelty, or poverty can all raise the likelihood of getting Depression.

A person’s surroundings can influence their nutrition, sleeping patterns, and energy levels, all linked to depression.

3. Types of Depression

Knowing which forms of depression you or your close one are in is beneficial to taking proper care of the depressed person.

There is mainly four major types of depression that can happen to anyone and two other forms of depression that can happen uniquely to women.

3.1. Major depression

A persistently negative mood characterizes major depression. Symptoms include difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite or weight, fatigue, and a sense of worthlessness. Psychotherapy and medication are commonly used to treat it.

Electroconvulsive treatment may be beneficial for some patients suffering from severe depression.

3.2. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is not the same as depression. Still, it is included because someone with bipolar disorder has phases of extremely low mood that satisfy the criteria for serious depression (referred to as “bipolar depression”).

A person with bipolar disorder, on the other hand, has excessively high – euphoric or irritated – emotions known as “mania,” or a less severe variety known as “hypomania.”

3.3. Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent depressive disorder (known as dysthymia) is characterized by a depressed mood that lasts at least two years.

A person with persistent depressive disorder may experience episodes of significant depression and times of less severe symptoms. Still, the symptoms must remain for at least two years to be classified as persistent depressive disorder.

3.4. Seasonal Effective Disorder

This depression manifests itself when the days become shorter in the fall and winter. The mood shift might be caused by changes in the body’s normal daily cycles, the sensitivity of the eyes to light, or how signaling molecules like serotonin and melatonin work.

The most effective treatment is light therapy, which regularly sits in front of an exceptionally bright light source. Psychotherapy and medicine, commonly used to treat depression, may also be useful.

The below two can mainly happen to females in general-

3.5. Perinatal Depression

Severe and mild depressive events that occur during pregnancy or within the first 12 months following delivery are classified as depression (also known as postpartum depression).

Perinatal depression affects up to one in every seven women who give birth and may be disastrous for the women, their babies, and their families. Counseling and medicines are used in treatment.

3.6. PMDD

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a severe form of depression. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder or  PMDD symptoms often begin immediately after ovulation and disappear until menstruation.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft) may help alleviate symptoms.

4. Symptoms of Depression

Depression symptoms are different for everyone and can change over time. Depression often starts in the late teens or early twenties. Depression symptoms aren’t often as visible as excessive sobbing and sadness.

There is no single pattern to depression, and the disorder can evolve differently from person to person. Symptoms may progress from moderate to severe over time.

Most people with depression will have several symptoms at one time. Some people feel anxious rather than sad (“anxious depression”). Others lose interest in activities they once enjoyed (so-called “reactive depressive” behavior).

Still, others have difficulty sleeping (hypersomnia), overeating (binge eating), oversleeping (hypersomnia), or using alcohol or drugs excessively.

Physical Symptoms of Depression

4.1. Insomnia

Although depression can sap interest and stamina during the day, a person suffering from depression may frequently lie up late at night, unable to sleep.

Some people with depression, on the other hand, may struggle to get out of bed and may sleep for large parts of the day.

4.2. Loss of Interest

Even if you don’t have insomnia, you may feel lethargic or reluctant to go through the day. Untreated depression frequently manifests as extreme weariness, making getting out of bed every morning even more difficult.

According to the APA, boredom is another indicator of sadness to keep a lookout for. Instead of ignoring or attributing your inability to enjoy previously enjoyed things to laziness, evaluate whether you are experiencing a depressive episode.

4.3. Decreased Appetite

It is normal for people who are depressed to lose their appetite. On the other hand, what we consume is a complex balance that can alter how our bodies control depression.

For example, suppose we cannot adequately fuel ourselves. In that case, our bodies may not have access to the minerals they require to maintain our energy levels for exercise, which has been demonstrated to aid with depression.

4.4. Alcohol Consumption

Individuals with severe depression who are at risk of suicide may also engage in other harmful behaviors, such as excessive alcohol use.

Alcohol use can be a problem for people with depression. For example, some people turn to alcohol when they feel sad or stressed out.

This is known as self-medication. It may lead to increased depression symptoms if the person does not get appropriate treatment for their underlying mental illness.

Other individuals use alcohol because they believe it will make them feel better or numb their emotions.

4.5. Increased Risk of Anxiety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many individuals in the United States reported worsened mental health during the pandemic, ranging from increased drug use to suicidal ideation.

A woman suffering from anxiety and sitting on the floor by the side of her bed.
Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash Copyrights 2021

4.6. Cardiovascular Issues

According to NHLBI, Depression is often associated with heart disease, and cardiovascular disease can induce depression.

This is related to our fight-or-flight reaction and the generation of stress hormones. Being in a constant state of mental tension might cause heart problems.

4.7. Chronic Medical Problems

If you already suffer from chronic pain, depression may exacerbate it. For example, the weariness caused by depression may prohibit you from engaging in activities that may assist in relieving your chronic pain.

Both depression and hypertension can be treated concurrently. However, medical therapies may differ depending on the ailment or disease you have.

4.8. Suicidal Thoughts

In addition, individuals with chronic illnesses may experience more intense symptoms of depression than those who do not have an ongoing illness or condition.

This can be very dangerous because untreated depression may lead to suicide attempts (the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.). The risk of death by suicide is higher when a person has both chronic pain and major depressive disorder (MDD1).

5. Can Depression Kill You? Side Effects of Depression

5.1. Developing Risk of Chronic Illness

Untreated depression can result in a higher risk of developing a chronic physical illness, such as heart disease. This is because depression itself can be a risk factor for heart disease.

Depression is also associated with increased inflammation throughout the body, increasing your risk of developing other health conditions.

5.2. Affect Immune Systems

Depression can affect your immune system and ability to manage chronic illness. If you have undiagnosed depression and don’t get treatment, it could worsen symptoms and complications from an existing condition or new ones altogether.

For example: if you don’t treat your depression while suffering from type 2 diabetes2, you may develop diabetic neuropathy or eye problems that further impair your quality of life and ability to take care of yourself physically (and mentally!).

5.3. Affect the Pain Resistance

Depression also affects our ability to manage pain effectively. Another component increases our risk of developing chronic illnesses like cancer or arthritis 3over time because we’re not seeking the necessary treatments at all!

6. Treatment of Depressed People

6.1. For Loved Ones

If your loved one is thinking about hurting themselves or experiencing other dark ideas, they need to get help right now. Here are some points to consider:

  • Remove any potentially harmful things from the home, such as handguns, if the person exhibits suicidal ideas.
  • Don’t Judge them: Judging or criticizing depressed people for feeling down or uninspired is ineffective and often reinforces the bad sentiments they already experience. Instead, begin the conversation non-judgmentally and encourage the individual to get treatment.

6.2. For Yourself

On its worst days, depression can feel like a sluggish drag to nowhere. Fortunately, there are several solutions for battling depression. You should create your self-care kit based on the kind of depression, the reason, and your symptoms.

6.2.1. Self-Care

Daily, you may emphasize self-care, not just facials and bubble baths (though they are also important) but also giving yourself time to relax and recoup when you’re feeling exhausted.

6.2.2. Integrative Movement

It might be as simple as taking a thoughtful walk around the block or dancing to a favorite song. Putting your hands to work may be cathartic at times. Alternatively, strive for tolerance, such as stretching while watching Netflix. You might also explore creative activities like baking or crocheting.

6.2.3. Don’t Shy from Getting Help

During a depressive state, loneliness is a common emotion. It is critical to seek out assistance at this time. Don’t believe the notion that “you don’t have to inquire if they care about you”. Only by asking can you begin to form a deep relationship where your friends can assist you. Consider it this way: the more you ask, the less you will have to ask.

6.2.4. Professional Help

Seek counseling for your depression if you are able. While treatment can be costly, some providers may give a sliding scale or group counseling choices. Discuss different therapy choices with your doctor. A therapist may use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT4) or talk therapy to educate you on controlling your symptoms and identifying triggers, such as stress, worry, or particular behaviors.

Medication, in conjunction with talk therapy, may be an effective therapeutic choice. A psychiatrist 5or nurse practitioner can assist you in determining what type of medication can reduce some of your problems.

A depressed man sitting on a couch and taking professional help with therapy sessions.
Photo by Nik Shuliahin 💛💙 on Unsplash Copyrights 2017

7. Break the Depression Cycle!

Depression can take mild forms to severe forms. However, it is totally in our hands to save ourselves from depression.

Follow the treatment and therapies 6given by a physician and cheer up your mood with family and friends.

Click here to read more.

8. Frequently Asked Questions

8.1. How strong is depression?

There are many cases of depression that are severe and can make the depressed person’s life difficult to cope with physically and mentally.

8.2. What age can you be depressed?

Depression can affect at any age. It can affect children, teenagers, young adults, and aged adults.

8.3. What is the weakest form of depression?

Persistent Depressive Disorder (known as dysthymia). In this, a person may experience episodes of significant depression and times of less severe symptoms. However, it lasts for at least two years.

8.4. Is depression more common in females?

Depression can occur to anyone at any age but women are more likely to fall into depression than men.

  1. Schmaal, Lianne, et al. “ENIGMA MDD: seven years of global neuroimaging studies of major depression through worldwide data sharing.” Translational psychiatry 10.1 (2020): 172. ↩︎
  2. Galicia-Garcia, Unai, et al. “Pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus.” International journal of molecular sciences 21.17 (2020): 6275. ↩︎
  3. Scherer, Hans Ulrich, Thomas Häupl, and Gerd R. Burmester. “The etiology of rheumatoid arthritis.” Journal of autoimmunity 110 (2020): 102400. ↩︎
  4. Atwood, Molly E., and Aliza Friedman. “A systematic review of enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT‐E) for eating disorders.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 53.3 (2020): 311-330. ↩︎
  5. Das, Nileswar. “Psychiatrist in post-COVID-19 era–Are we prepared?.” Asian journal of psychiatry 51 (2020): 102082. ↩︎
  6. Moore, Amanda R., et al. “RAS-targeted therapies: is the undruggable drugged?.” Nature reviews Drug discovery 19.8 (2020): 533-552. ↩︎

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Arpita Bhattacharjee

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