13 Ways Depression Affects You Physically
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13 Ways Depression Affects You PhysicallyPowerful Connections Between The Mind And The Body
How does a negative emotion like sadness or anger get transformed into symptoms in your body? Mood becomes a medical problem via a domino effect of chemicals and surprisingly fast.
1. Something makes you angry, whether it’s getting a bill that’s too big or someone breaking up with you. Or something makes you sad. Maybe a beloved pet dies or you find out a friend is moving out of state. Whatever it is, you simply can’t snap out of it. You find as the days go on that you’re in a “foul mood.” Or you’re “down in the dumps.” As the days go on, that foul mood or down-in-the-dumps feeling becomes a nameless discomfort before it becomes full-blown symptoms. Those emotions, the anger, the sadness, move down from your right brain, that area for pure emotions, to your hypothalamus.
Yes, you’re right—that hypothalamus is that same area for hormones, for regulating eating and sleeping. That’s why when you’re in a bad mood and you stay in a bad mood for a long time, it disrupts your sleeping, your eating, and your hormones. Then the sadness and anger go to the pituitary gland. More hormonal eating and sleeping changes occur. And then finally, as the days and the months go by, those chemical symptoms proceed via the brain stem to your adrenal gland, which broadcasts the emotions all over your body.
2. When you feel frustrated or depressed, your brain stem releases epinephrine, a neurotransmitter that makes you get wound up and irritable. Your adrenal gland also releases a stress hormone, cortisol, that makes you want to eat even more. Nice!
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3. That stress hormone cortisol starts those infamous immune system problems. What was at first frustration and sadness now becomes a longer-term funk or depression. “Body” depression sets in with a cascade of irritating, sleep-inducing, and pain-causing cytokines.
Cytokines promote inflammation everywhere in your body.
4. As a result of these cytokines, your white blood cells, those immune system cells in your body, release proteins that make you feel weak, tired, and achy. You feel like you have the flu, or a fever, or arthritis.
5. The cytokines “eat up” your mood neurotransmitters, making you even more depressed. Norepinephrine and serotonin, important to keep your mood elevated, start to drop, causing you to feel even more depressed, more angry, and more irritable.
6. Months later, your depression and anger become more solidified in your body and organ systems, especially your heart, your blood pressure, and your blood sugar. If you went to your doctor, he or she would note that your blood homocysteine levels were beginning to rise, alerting you that you’re at risk for heart disease. Your depression is now registering medical-intuitively in the form of a broken heart.
7. Now changes in the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin cause body ache, pain, everywhere. First it’s in your head, then it’s in your back. It’s everywhere. You feel like you’re dragging your body around.
8. Long-term aggravation and depression start to bother you even at night. You can’t fall asleep. You can’t stay asleep. You can’t stay awake during the day.
9. Then as the months go on, as if that weren’t bad enough, you start to notice that the pounds are packing on. Or you’re losing weight, depending on your genes. If you are gaining weight, you may see that you’re eating more carbohydrates—pasta, rice, sweets—and thus your weight is going up. Ultimately you might drink more alcohol to get to sleep. Both trigger a vicious cycle of more health problems.
10. As your weight goes up, it causes your cholesterol to go up, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke even more.
11. Are you still with me? Because it’s getting pretty depressing. You’ve developed, with your weight increase, more insulin problems and more blood pressure problems. With the increased weight and increased insulin, inflammation goes up, and cholesterol floats in your blood vessels.
12. The cholesterol plus depression creates molecules called free radicals that, over time, like rust, clog up your memory circuits. You notice you can’t read a page of a book without reading it over and over and over again to get the meaning. You find you can’t remember what you said just a few seconds ago. You can’t remember people’s names. Are you remembering what you just read here?
13. Omega-3 fatty acids start to go down, and this combined with inflammation, decades later, increases your chance of dementia as well—the thought of which makes you even more depressed.
This doesn't have to be the end result however, whatever step you are currently at, Louise Hay and I firmly believe changing the way you think about illness will help you find a pathway to a healthier and more present mind. In Heal Your Mind, we offer alternatives to prescription pills AND nutritional supplements for many conditions and disorders of the mind including memory, learning disability, addiction, anxiety, and depression.