Q: What are the dangers of untreated depression?
A: Concerns about symptoms of depression should always be taken seriously. Depression causes significant disabilities and problems of many different kinds:
- At its simplest, someone who's depressed and doesn't get proper treatment goes through life needlessly in pain. This pain for many is even more intense than physical pain, but unfortunately a part of depression is a hopelessness that often keeps people from seeking the help they need.
- Depression alters the ability to function effectively and efficiently. You don't think clearly, have trouble concentrating, and become more forgetful. This can have a noticeable impact on your job or on relationships—such as the ability to be an effective caregiver or even the ability to continue to keep a loved one at home. You can make mistakes that endanger the care receiver's life—or your own.
- Depression puts one at risk for an ever-longer list of health conditions, including dementia, new research is revealing. Depressed people have a compromised immune system, which can make them more vulnerable to a virus or even cancer. Depressed people take longer to recover from heart surgeries, and if they have chronic conditions such as diabetes or lung disease, these seem to worsen.
- Untreated depression subjects those we love and care about to our negative or anxious feelings, dark moods, and inability to engage—unpleasant experiences that also tend to rub off on others. So choosing not to address depression and become whole affects not just your own life but the lives of those closest to you.
- The ultimate complication of untreated depression is suicide. As many as 90 percent of those who commit suicide are clinically depressed, have a substance-abuse problem, or both, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. That's because untreated depression itself alters the way one thinks; it becomes hard to see any bright spots or any end to the emotional pain. In addition, in an effort to ease the pain, many people with depression self-medicate with alcohol, which can actually exacerbate the depression and lower inhibitions, increasing the risk for suicide.
More from MSN Health:
- 5 foods that can lift your spirits
- Are you down, or might you have Seasonal Affective Disorder?
- Join the depression discussion on MSN Health's Facebook page
- Bing: How to cope with/help a depressed spouse
- Video: The connection between sadness and strokes
depression and sadness help
What to eat to improve your mood
Irritable? Isolated? Withdrawn? Do you find yourself working all the time? Drinking too much? These unhealthy coping strategies may be clues that you have male depression.
It's a hot topic we need to talk about
Postnatal depression isn’t uncommon and sufferers need to know that they’re not alone and that by seeking expert help they can combat it.
Worried? Nervous? The distinction between anxiety disorders and "normal" anxiety isn't always clear.
Here’s what to do during your waking hours for a better night’s sleep.
Did you know?