How Can Comorbidities Lead to Depression?

by | Mental Health

illness and depression
Quit often it’s not the presence of multiple diseases that causes depression but the stress and trauma of dealing with their symptoms and effects on our health ultimately leads one to feel like they’re fighting a losing battle and experience symptoms of or actual depression.

A not uncommon question that I get asked is what are the comorbidities i.e. the other types of conditions that can lead to depression. So how does depression emerge if you have other illnesses and how do they trigger? So there are several comorbidities that typically lead to depression. And I’ll outline a few of those.

Firstly, people who have other chronic long-term medical problems have an increased risk of depression. For example, if you have diabetes and your diabetes is out of control, you’re in and out of hospital, you have an increased risk of depression. If you have a stroke typically with older people, then the risk of depression is quite a lot higher. If you have thyroid disease which is, thyroid is an important organ in the body and that thyroid disease is not treated, you have a risk of depression. So in essence, not all medical conditions but lots of persistent medical conditions lead to an increased risk of depression.

So if you have a serious medical problem that is persistent and you start to feel depressed it might well be related to that condition. And the way in which it is triggered can be just the stress and strain of coping with that illness can bring about depression but sometimes something about that illness, something about the way that affects your whole metabolism, something about the way that impacts on your neurochemistry in your brain can contribute to depression.

Finally, if you do have a comorbidity that leads to depression, there’s good evidence that that depression can still be treated. It could be treated by properly getting the comorbidity under control. It can be treated if there’s a lot of stress and strain around that depression through counselling and psychological input to help you cope with that comorbidity and indeed the depression that goes with comorbidity.

And finally, there are excellent biological or prescription medicines known as antidepressants that can actually help a lot in your treatment of depression even if they’re caused by a comorbidity.

Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney