According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 14 million Americans suffer from chronic depression each year. Depression interferes with daily life, making it difficult to get up in the morning and face the world. If left untreated, short-term effects can develop into long-term problems that affect work, relationships, and your physical and mental health. Learning the short- and long-term effects of depression will help you recognize it when it hits, so you can seek treatment and enjoy life again.
Depression is characterized by feeling down for more than two weeks. People with depression may feel sad, anxious, helpless, worthless or hopeless. They stop caring about things they used to enjoy, such as hobbies or sex. Often they feel a loss of energy, and they may be incapable of concentrating on anything. Aches and pains that won't go away, irregular sleep patterns and loss of appetite also indicate depression.
Short-term effects of depression include a loss of interest in life. People with depression lack their former motivation and enthusiasm for activities and goals. Often they suffer from loneliness they feel is incurable. Energy levels drop not only from psychological depression, but also from not taking care of themselves. They may feel uninterested in personal hygiene and stop eating well. Often they succumb to their lack of energy and motivation by oversleeping in an effort to escape the world.
Long-term effects of depression include chronic fatigue because of loss of energy and irregular sleep patterns. This, combined with a weakened immune system, can lead to a susceptibility to physical illness. Those with depression might also suffer chronic aches and pains.
People with long-term depression feel isolated and often have trouble expressing affection. This can cause relationships to deteriorate.
Depression also affects attention and memory. People who suffer from depression could find themselves forgetful and unable to concentrate, which can have a negative impact on their work.
Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. However, many people with depression can’t place what in their life triggered their symptoms.
Usually depression is the product of a combination of causes. Huge changes in life could be a cause; these include financial stress, moving to a new city, getting married or losing a loved one.
The physical weakness and stress caused by some illnesses—such as cancer and AIDS—are also a possible cause. Pessimistic individuals, and those with low self-esteem, are at a higher risk of developing depression. Because depression is genetic, it may also run in the family.
If you think you are suffering from depression, see your doctor. He or she will be familiar with the symptoms of depression and might prescribe medication or, more likely, refer you to a psychiatrist.
The most common treatment options are antidepressants and psychotherapy. Antidepressants can take weeks to begin working, but they remedy the imbalance of chemicals in your brain. Meanwhile, psychotherapy—also known as talk therapy—helps you work through your feelings and can help you feel less alone.
Make sure you find the right therapist for you. If you don’t like your doctor’s referral, be honest about it. If he or she cannot refer you to another psychiatrist, find one on your own by asking others for recommendations. People working at hospitals, schools and houses of faith might be able to make a recommendation that’s right for you.