Depression begins in the brain, but it does have physical effects on your body and on the people around you. It really is amazing how much depression spreads to the people around you. Here are some of the maybe unknown physical effects of depression on you and your family.
Depression Changes Brain Structure
This may be one reason why depression can be so hard to shake off, in spite of well-meaning advice to just ‘get over it’. Recurring episodes of depression can reduce the size of the hippocampus. The hippocampus forms memories and emotions. Memories and emotions are the key to a person’s sense of self. Losing a sense of self presents a flat, disinterested affect to family and friends. Research has discovered that the shrinking of the hippocampus is directly related to depressive episodes. When the episodes begin very early, before 21, the smaller hippocampus is evident on MRI imaging.
Depression and Tiredness
Although depressed people often feel too tired to move, sleep sometimes becomes elusive. It is very likely for you to often feel fatigued and exhausted. Maintaining a normal work schedule and relationship with family becomes too much to handle. Chronic body aches and pains that don’t respond to medication become evident. Children may be clingy, irritable and negative about school attendance. The child can be tagged with a behavioral problem at school because of depression.
Depression and Sex
Depressed people feel withdrawn. Intimacy and sex take energy and interaction, which the depressed person cannot muster. It is hard for the non-depressed partner to understand and sympathize with behaviors that seem rejecting. The depressed male may exhibit signs of erectile dysfunction, the female may become non-orgasmic. Both of these situations can be symptoms of the lowered brain activity evident with depression.
Use of Alcohol or Drugs
Self-medication is common among those depressed, because drugs and alcohol can provide short-term relief from unbearable feelings. Families have been very disappointed when a person gets sober through treatment but the avoidant, disinterested behaviors continue. Drug and alcohol treatment centers are realizing that conditions appearing in tandem, like depression and alcoholism, need to be treated as comorbidities. This means that the mental illness needs to be addressed as well as the alcohol or drug dependency for continued sobriety.
A therapy for depression that may be well-recommended by someone with a clinical psychology phd is called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. Some even go to depression treatment centers to get a comprehensive recovery. Patients learn skills to cope with depressive thought patterns and are actively engaged in recovery. Assignments are given for study about depression, as well as practice therapies for improvement. CBT presents new methods of thinking that can reroute the old patterns and habits of automatic negativity.
Depression needs to be recognized by family and friends as a brain change. It can have serious effects upon those afflicted and loved ones. Depression needs to be treated when persistent negative behaviors arise for best outcome.