The Long-Term Effects Of Untreated Depression
According to the latest reports, nearly 10% of Americans suffer from depression. And most are not getting the help they need. Only about a third of people diagnosed with depression start therapy after the diagnosis. Part of this is due to the depression itself. A person struggling with depression finds it hard just to get out of bed and when they do, they are exhausted and don’t feel like doing anything, including reaching out for help. But not dealing with depression is harder than dealing with it. Depression not treated early can have a significant and long-term impact emotionally and physically. Here are some of the long-term effects of untreated depression.
We are created for connection. The need to have a safe, secure attachment is literally wired into the fabric of our being. Having bonds and interactions with other people is a critical part of our mental, emotional, and physical health. But untreated depression takes a toll on relationships. People with long-term depression tend to isolate themselves and have difficulty carrying on a simple conversation. They often become closed off or even anti-social. Forming new relationships or maintaining current relationships becomes challenging. This often results in alienation, loss of friendships, loss of job, romantic breakups, breakdown of the family, and divorce. This doesn’t have to happen, though. If you seek help early, you can save those vital relationships that you need so much.
Untreated depression poses a threat to your health, and the longer it goes untreated, the higher the threat. Long-term depression affects one’s ability to care for basic health needs, which leads to an unhealthy cycle of chronic sickness, compromised immune systems, weight gain or loss, problems sleeping, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and more. Additionally, because depression and pain use the same pathway in the brain, extended depression can cause aches and pains such as headaches, backaches, stomach aches, and joint/muscle aches. Ignoring depression and procrastinating getting help can have serious consequences. It is critical that, if you are suffering symptoms of depression, that you don’t wait to reach out for treatment.
One of the side-effects of depression is a loss of motivation. People suffering from depression have no energy to do much of anything, no “get up and go” to do their usual tasks at work or chores at home. It’s not surprising, then, that as the depression takes over, productivity decreases and often disappears. According to one source, depression cost more than $51 billion in absenteeism from work and lost productivity. Obviously, it is hard to keep a job, keep a house, care for a family when depression is stifling the ability to get anything done.
Drug and alcohol use and depression tend to go together. People who abuse drugs and alcohol tend to become depressed, and people who are depressed tend to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. It is not unusual for a person to have a mental disorder and also a substance abuse disorder at the same time.
Treat Depression Early
The notion that you can just snap out of your depression or that you can still function normally even though you are depressed are notions that need rethinking. Those are myths that will make you miserable. The reality is that depression is crippling and causes serious long-term effects when it goes untreated. However, people who seek treatment for their depression early not only feel better, but they are able to return to the things that are important to them.
If you are struggling with depression, I urge you to read more about depression treatment and then reach out to us at Christian Counseling Associates for help. We can work with you to help you recognize your depressive thinking and learn new coping skills.
Sydney Spradlin is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in a dual track master's program in counseling and marriage and family therapy. She is supervised by Jack D. Dickerson, LPC-S. She belongs to the American Counseling Association (ACA), Christian Counselors of North Texas (CCT) and EMDRIA (a professional association for EMDR trained and certified counselors). Sydney works with individuals, couples, teenagers, and families in the Plano office of Christian Counseling Associates.