8 Ways Depression Hurts Your Body

Depression Hurts Your Body

Depression hurts, not just emotionally but also physically. Sure, we’re all aware of the psychological pain associated with low moods, loss of pleasure, and hopelessness, but that’s only the beginning. When major depressive disorder goes untreated, it can also have devastating effects on your physical health. Here are 8 physical consequences associated with depression and the devastating toll they can take.


Depression hurts, not just emotionally but also physically. The psychological pain associated with low moods is only the beginning. When depression goes untreated, it can also have devastating effects on your physical health. Click To Tweet

8 Ways Depression Hurts Your Body

1. Heart disease.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute writes that adults who have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder or who have symptoms of depression are 64% more likely to develop coronary artery disease. Even more worrisome, depressed people who have heart disease are 59% more likely to have a heart attack or die from a cardiac incident. One study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Sessions in 2017 showed that heart disease patients who are diagnosed with depressive disorder are twice as likely to die compared to non-depressed patients. In fact, depression was the most significant predictor of death in heart disease patients, according to the study.

2. Chronic pain.

Depression can make your body feel pain more acutely. A wealth of research, including findings in a 2016 paper in the Journal of Pain, has shown that depression is associated with increased pain sensitivity. This can lead to chronic aches and pains that may not dissipate with treatment. The relationship between the mood disorder and pain goes both ways, as they negatively influence the other. Being both chronically achy and depressed is associated with a litany of other detrimental physical and psychological issues.

3. Migraine headaches.

Unfortunately, depression and migraine headaches tend to go together. In a 2016 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers found that being diagnosed with major depressive disorder significantly heightened the risk of having migraine headaches. Additionally, the researchers concluded that the more severe the depression, the more likely people are to suffer from migraines.

4. Impaired endothelial function.

Depression, especially when it’s combined with everyday stressors, has a negative impact on blood vessels. According to a 2019 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, people with a mood disorder who reported stress experienced greater impairments in endothelial function compared with people who aren’t depressed. Why is endothelial function so important? The endothelium is a small layer of cells within blood vessels of the heart that is responsible for their dilation and constriction. Endothelial dysfunction causes the heart’s blood vessels to constrict rather than dilate, which can be a predictor of stroke or heart attack.

5. Weight changes.

Both weight gain and weight loss are associated with depressive disorder. For example, about 43% of people with depression are obese, and being diagnosed with a mood disorder increases the chances of becoming obese, according to the CDC. People with depression may use food to cope with feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness. This can lead to extra pounds that further negatively impact physical health by increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and more. In other people, depression can reduce appetite and lead to weight loss. In part, weight loss may be due to depressive symptoms like low energy, lack of motivation, and loss of pleasure. You may not have the energy to prepare healthy meals, or you may no longer have a zest for cooking even though you used to enjoy it.

A brain imaging study in The American Journal of Psychiatry looked at brain activity in depressed people with increased or decreased appetite as well as a healthy control group while they viewed photos of food and non-food items. Depressed people with increased appetite had heightened activity in the brain’s reward centers while those with decreased appetite had reduced activity in an area of the brain involved in interoception (the ability to understand and respond to the body’s internal signals). The differences in brain activity in this study underscore the concept that depression is not just one thing.

6. Nutritional deficiencies.

Whether you have a reduced appetite and aren’t eating enough or you’re filling up on sweets to ease emotional pain, you may not be getting adequate nutrition. Research shows that nutrient deficiencies commonly seen in people with depression include low levels of vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, folate, amino acids, and magnesium. Such nutritional deficiencies are associated with a number of physical health risks.

7. Inflammation.

Decades of scientific research point to an association between depression inflammation. However, mounting evidence suggests that depression is not an inflammatory disease, and not every person with the mood disorder experiences high levels of inflammation. When inflammation does strike, it can increase the risk for serious diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

8. Early death.

Sadly, having depression raises mortality risk. A 2014 meta-analysis of 293 studies found that having depression is linked to a 50% increased risk of death. Among people with depressive disorder, mortality may be related to associated chronic health issues or suicide. Statistics show that half of all deaths by suicide are associated with depression and other mood disorders.

Overcoming Depression to Improve Physical Health

Clearly, untreated depression puts you at risk for a wide range of unwanted physical health issues. Treating depressive disorder can put you on a path to healing not only emotional pain but also physical problems. Take note that when it comes to depression treatment, one size does NOT fit all. The brain imaging work at Amen Clinics has helped identify 7 types of depression and anxiety and knowing your type is the key to getting a treatment plan that is targeted to your needs. Medication isn’t the only option, and there are many effective alternatives to antidepressants.

Depression and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

1 Comment »

  1. Don't forget fatigue.

    Comment by jeffrey koehler — December 14, 2022 @ 1:44 PM

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