The body and mind are inevitably linked and the profound influence of one on the other is becoming much more accepted in the medical and lay communities. An unhealthy body can cause emotional disturbances just as psychiatric conditions can trigger or exacerbate diseases within the body.
The stomach, liver and thyroid are organs and, so too is the brain, with all of them operating on the same biochemical principles. Emotions, for example, occur at the cellular level as a complex interaction of chemicals and electrical activity. Depression occurs when there is an imbalance in the interaction and it can be as fatal as other physical diseases.
Depression is a great example of the interrelatedness of the body and mind. If depression really did just happen “all in the head,” it wouldn’t have any impact on physical diseases. Yet there is plenty of evidence that shows disease states worsen when depression is present and, conversely, that depression can occur as a result of disease states.
Heart disease is just one of the physical illnesses that worsens with depression and, in fact, depression may be as significant as cholesterol level as a risk factor for heart disease. We also know that people who have depression are more likely to develop heart disease.
Diabetes is another disease linked with depression. About 10% of diabetic men and 20% of diabetic women also have depression. This is approximately twice the rate of depression as is seen in the general population. Diabetics with depression are much more likely to suffer from complications like blindness, heart disease and neuropathy. Depression interferes with the body’s ability to process insulin, making diabetes more difficult to manage.
It makes biochemical sense that treating depression can decrease the severity of other diseases because brain chemistry controls much more than just emotions. Brain chemicals like serotonin, which regulates mood, circulate throughout the whole body, not just in the brain. This means depression is more of a systemic disease because the chemicals involved in regulating our mood have effects throughout the entire body.
When serotonin circulates in the body through the bloodstream, it appears to decrease the stickiness of platelets and reduces the chance platelets will clump together and form the clots that block arteries. Serotonin production decreases with depression, thus depression may be a contributing factor to clot formation.
Because time with your primary doctor may be limited and your specialist physicians may only concentrate on a specific medical problem, it is important that you let them know if you think you’re depressed. Don’t wait for a doctor to ask because they may not and then your health – physical and emotional – will continue to deteriorate unnecessarily.
If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have depression. Take the Depression Risk Assessment (found in the list of Articles) and if you think you may have depression, call us today at 414-774-6878. We can help you!