Consider this statement: “Of course he’s depressed – so would I if I had just had a heart attack and gone through all that surgery and hospitalization.” I have heard many variations on that theme in the office and outside. It sucks to have a medical illness, and the sicker you are the more it probably sucks. But the ‘suckiness’ of a medical illness does not automatically equate with the patient being clinically depressed. And depression does not inevitably lead to poor physical health. The relationship between the different processes is more complicated, and it is the job of the psychiatrist to establish cause and effect when possible. The short article below summarizes this concept:
Harvard Medical School – HEALTHBeat, March 23, 2013
Depression and illness: Chicken or egg?
Depression is more than a passing bout of sadness or dejection, or feeling down in the dumps. It can leave you feeling continuously burdened and can sap the joy out of once-pleasurable activities. Effective treatment can lighten your mood, strengthen your connections with loved ones, allow you to find satisfaction in interests and hobbies, and make you feel more like yourself again.
When depression strikes, doctors usually probe what’s going on in the mind and brain first. But it’s also important to check what’s going on in the body, since certain medical problems are linked to mood disturbances. In fact, medical illnesses — and medication side effects — may be behind nearly 10% to 15% of all cases of depression.
It’s not uncommon for a physical illness to trigger depression. Up to half of heart attack survivors and those with cancer report feeling blue, and many are diagnosed with depression. Many people who have diabetes, Parkinson’s and other chronic conditions become depressed.
It works in the other direction, too. Depression can affect the course of a physical disease. Take heart disease — depression has been linked with slower recovery from a heart attack and an increased risk for future heart trouble.