Depression may occur by itself, or in combination with other disease or mental illness. People suffering from anxiety disorders may also experience symptoms of depression, for example, as can people who experience life-changing events. Substance abuse, sleep disorders and eating disorder are often comorbid with depression.
Defining Comorbid Depression
When two health conditions occur simultaneously they are said to be comorbid. In many cases comrbid diseases aggravate each others’ symptoms. For instance, living with cancer can trigger a major depressive episode, the symptoms of which can worsen some cancer symptoms and interfere with treatment options (depression often makes it difficult for people to comply with medical treatments). Please refer to biology dictionary website for the detailed definition.
Health Conditions and Depression
Physical health conditions can trigger depression, as statistics gathered by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance show:
- 10 to 27 percent of stroke survivors develop depression
- 25 percent of cancer patients exhibit depressive symptoms
- 50 percent of Parkinson’s disease patients experience depression
- 8.5 to 27 percent of diabetics experience depression
- One third of all heart attack survivors experience depression
- One third of HIV patients are clinically depressed.
Depression can greatly complicate disease treatment. Studies show that when depression and serious illness coexist symptoms of both conditions are more severe than when either disease is seen alone.
Anxiety, Depression and Mood Disorders
People suffering from anxiety disorders may also suffer from depression. Examples of anxiety disorders include such mood disorders as panic disorder (panic attacks), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder. As with comorbid physical disease, depression and anxiety disorder symptoms tend to worsen when an individual suffers from both conditions.
Alcohol, Substance Abuse and Depression
Depression is very common in people with substance abuse problems, including both drug abuse and alcoholism. Up to 27 percent of substance abuse sufferers exhibit symptoms of depression.
It can be difficult to determine if drug or alcohol abuse triggers depression, or whether substance abuse is an attempt to self-medicate depression symptoms.
Eating Disorder and Depression
Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia are comorbid with depression in 50 to 75 percent of cases. Feelings of shame, guilt and lack of self-worth often accompany eating disorders, and are also common symptoms of depression.
As with substance abuse, it can be difficult to determine whether depression preceded the eating disorder, or whether the eating disorder triggered the depression.
Depression and Sleep Disorders
Almost any condition can be comorbid with depression. Children with untreated attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome (ADHD) are often depressed. Learning disorders can also cause stress and depression in children.
People whose behavior falls on the autistic spectrum, including people with Asperger’s syndrome, also experience a high level of depression (in part due to the stress of negotiating life with perceptions and a world view at odds with “typical” members of society).
While depression and comorbid conditions often feed off each other, there is hope. Depression treatment has a positive effect on the symptoms of coexisting conditions, and depression symptoms often diminish when other conditions are successfully treated.