Depressed people are more ill? Psychosomatic links explained
Depression and low moods are becoming more and more common in people’s life. We hate them, we try to avoid them and some of us search for help through counselling. There is even another reason to do so – being depressed might make you ill in the long-term. It was found in research that patients are 2.6 times more likely to die of cancer when they are depressed. Another study investigated patients who are HIV positive who were more likely to progress to the stage of AIDS and die than the patients who were HIV positive but not depressed.
So how does this happen?
Depression has been found in medical research to be associated with generalised inflammatory reaction. The same reaction happens when your body meets a virus or bacteria. The immunity system is our defence mechanism against infections. Once it comes in contact with a pathogen it makes a reaction and eventually destroys the pathogen. This is how your body deals with infections on daily basis without you even noticing it.
Scientists found that the immunity system undergoes activation but also gets “out of sync” in depressed individuals. So not only does it waste reserves for the times you really need it – like when you get ill, but it also puts your defence mechanisms in disbalance, which again translates in poorer health.
The second system that gets activated in depression is hormonal stress reaction through hypothalamo pituitary adrenal axis (HPA axis), which at the end produces cortisol, main stress hormone. This normally suppresses the immune system as it prepares the body to fight or flight, hence anything unnecessary is temporarily stopped. Such a long-term stress reaction therefore again wastes body’s potential to react appropriately once it meets some bug or has to fight a cancer.
We see it from time to time how depressed people lose interest in everything, then get some physical symptoms – chest pains, fatigue etc. It can be regarded as a vicious cycle of their own negative thinking patterns but it also has a medical background.
Psychosomatic counselling emerges as a combination of knowledge of medicine and knowledge of psychology. It points out the common factors in both and aims to treat unexplained physical symptoms through exploring psychological background. Mind, body and soul is at the end three parts of one entity – you.