The body is not merely along for the mind’s ride into depression. The body is an active participant with the capacity to aggravate or improve symptoms of depression. Understanding the complete picture of an individual’s depression, including the physiological conditions associated with depression, can help elucidate causes and factors into effective healing.
Below is a list of several known causes of depression. We have seen them demonstrated in the lives of countless clients. Many times, individuals came in suffering from depression without really understanding why. Other times, clients who initially came to us because of an addiction or eating disorder sought help for depression. Take time to read through this list of possible contributors and note any that seem relevant to your life.
Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia is more commonly known as low blood sugar or the “sugar blues.” The body’s primary source of fuel is glucose, which is a form of sugar. The body produces glucose through the consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, and starches. Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream during digestion. Glucose that is not needed is stored in the liver as glycogen. Hypoglycemia occurs when the amount of sugar in the blood is insufficient to fuel the body’s activities. While this condition has not been universally accepted as a cause of depression, even skeptics will agree that hypoglycemia can cause weakness, mental dullness, confusion, and fatigue. All of these symptoms, when taken together, can exacerbate depression.
Heart Disease: A recent study has shown that one out of every five people who suffer a heart attack will become depressed. It is understandable how such a traumatic event in one’s life could contribute to a state of depression. Conversely, a link between depression and heart disease was found in a study at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, which reported that 1) those with heart disease were more likely to be depressed than healthy people, and 2) depressed people who had heart attacks were four times more likely to die within the next six months as people who were not depressed.
Anemia: This condition is also known as iron-poor blood. Symptoms of anemia, similar to depression, include fatigue, weakness, and lethargy. It isn’t easy to experience mental alertness, optimism, or energy when your body is physically run down.
Apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition where the air passages in the throat close off during sleep. It is more common in overweight and older, as the muscles in the throat lose rigidity and become limp upon relaxation. The resulting symptoms are fatigue, mental confusion, and lethargy—all associated with a state of depression. Though this is a severe condition, it can be treated successfully through surgical and nonsurgical methods.
Celiac Disease: This is a condition in which the immune system attacks the food protein gluten. In the process, the small intestine is damaged, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the body to absorb zinc, tryptophan, B vitamins, and other essential nutrients. The absence of these nutrients affects the body’s ability to produce serotonin, the deficiency known to be linked to depression.
Diabetes: This is the body’s inability to regulate its blood sugar. This constant up-and-down stress of elevated versus low blood sugar levels can compromise the body’s ability to regulate significant nutrient absorption and hormonal levels, which protect from depressive mood swings.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: This is also known as “the winter blues.” This depressive cycle is tied to the body’s pattern of melatonin secretion. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the body’s biological clock and coordinates the sleep-wake process, including temperature control. Melatonin is produced in the dark and is in most excellent production during the winter months. However, due to winter’s shorter days, melatonin may be made either earlier or later in the day, thus throwing the body’s cycle off track.
Heredity: Simply put, depression appears to run in families. While no definitive study pinpoints a depression gene, there is research that suggests a family link.
Dehydration: Most people don’t drink enough water. When the body is dehydrated, one of its main detoxification methods is compromised. As a result, dehydration can cause fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and mental dullness.
Reactional Hyperphagia: It’s no secret that we tend to crave comfort foods when we’re stressed. This doesn’t bode well for people whose stress stems from their inability to lose weight, particularly if they’re experiencing reactional hyperphagia. In this condition, emotional stress affects brain chemistry and hormones so that the body craves “fullness,” even if there is no physical basis for it.
Endocrine Disorders: When the endocrine system, comprised of the thyroid and adrenal glands, is not working correctly, through either over or under-functioning, depression has been a result. However, doctors rarely check the thyroid, so its connection to evident depression often goes undiagnosed.
Impaired Homocysteine Conversion: Homocysteine is a nonprotein amino acid, the presence of which in the body must necessarily be converted into the amino acid cysteine. The conversion requires adequate amounts of folate, B12, B6, and zinc in the body. So, deficiencies of these nutrients impair the homocysteine-to-cysteine conversion, resulting in homocysteine build-up in the body, the overabundance of which has been linked to depression.
After reading through the list above of physiological conditions, you may immediately recognize some as present in your life. However, to accurately diagnose yourself and others, you may need to obtain the professional expertise of a medical doctor who understands the role of physical conditions in depression. A third party has ranked the Center • A Place of HOPE among the top 10 treatment facilities in the country for depression. If you would like to speak with a depression specialist, please call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 or fill out our contact form, and someone will be in touch with you. Also, if you would like to view more about our treatment, please visit our depression treatment page.