Depression and medical problems.

In this last installment about possible factors that can attribute to onset of depression, we’ll have a closer look at some medical conditions that are linked with mood disorders and depression.


Depression and medical problems


Certain medical problems are linked to lasting, significant mood disturbances. Medical illnesses or medication may be at the cause of 10 to 15% of all depressions.

One of the best known causes are thyroid hormone imbalances. An excess of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) can trigger manic symptoms. On the other hand, hypothyroidism, a condition in which your body produces too little thyroid hormone, often leads to exhaustion and depression.

Heart disease has also been linked to depression, with up to half of heart attack survivors reporting feeling blue and many having significant depression. Depression can spell trouble for heart patients: it’s been linked with slower recovery and future cardiovascular trouble.  Although doctors have hesitated to give heart patients older depression medications called tricyclic antidepressants because of their impact on heart rhythms, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI’S) seem safe for people with heart conditions.


The following medical conditions have also been associated with depression and other mood disorders:

  • degenerative neurological conditions: multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Huntington’s disease
  •  stroke
  • some nutritional deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamin B12
  • other endocrine disorders, such as problems with the parathyroid or adrenal glands that cause them to produce too little or too much of particular hormones
  • certain immune system diseases, such as lupus
  • some viruses and other infections, such as mononucleosis, hepatitis, and HIV
  • cancer
  •  erectile dysfunction

When considering the connection between health problems and depression, an important question to address is which came first, the medical condition or the mood changes. There is no doubt that the stress of having certain illnesses can trigger depression. In other cases, depression precedes the medical illness and may even contribute to it. To find out whether the mood changes occurred on their own or as a result of the medical illness, a doctor carefully considers a person’s medical history and the results of a physical exam.

If depression or mania springs from an underlying medical problem, the mood changes should disappear after the medical condition is treated. If you have hypothyroidism, for example, lethargy and depression often lift once treatment regulates the level of thyroid hormone in your blood. In many cases, however, the depression is an independent problem, which means that in order to be successful, treatment must address depression directly.


To wrap the series ‘depression and the brain’ up I’ll provide you with all the other posts on the theme. If you’re new here or you may have missed some, you can have a broader idea what possible attributing factors to depression there are known. I also need to clarify that I wrote about depression in this series but that there are different forms of depression like post partum depression, seasonal depression and bipolar depression. They are specific on it’s own and may have other factors attributing to their onset. If you want me to write about those more, you can tell me in the comments.

I thank you for reading and commenting!


My other posts on depression and the brain:

  1. Depression and the brain – the brain itself.
  2. Depression and the brain – neurotransmitters, a hell of a ride!
  3. Depression and the brain – time is the state of my genes.
  4. Depression and the brain – how stress affects the body.
  5. Depression and the brain – early losses and trauma.



Full article click here.


20 thoughts on “Depression and medical problems.

    1. Yet there a so many examples of that. Conversion symptoms are real, phantom pain is real. Our collective mind just can’t grasp it yet.
      And isn’t it just a weird way of thinking, to separate the two? We are the two in every moment.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. As you say, I was given a “depression test” after my stroke. I didn’t recognise what it was, and nobody from the hospital told me what it was, but my wife recognised it. As far as I was concerned I was taking enough medication already and would have told them where to put their pill, had they suggested I take one. I guess at every stage of my hospital stay, I knew my own mind at least – I did not want to take anything. But clearly, our health service recognises that the two are linked.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When dealing with depression and stroke they need to find out which was first.
      They might need to treat the depression with medication (not always of course) because suffering from depression can make your heart medication work less or can make you more vulnerable to suffer another stroke. It interferes with the recovery progress. Some people react like you do and they are determined to make it work. Others can have another outlook. That is also why your volunteer work is so valuable, it gives the patients the opportunity to connect again with someone who understands the process and is an example of recovery. Hope, sleep and laughter is the best medicine 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I hope you continue on with other mental health series. I always look forward to seeing what you have on Tuesday. I just read a few days ago that there is a movement toward classifying bipolar disorder into the category with those other neurological conditions. The argument is that it is not a mental health problem, but a physical health problem that manifests itself as a mental illness as those others do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is so interesting! I believe as we will know more about the brain and neurons and everything there will be changes made.
      I’ve always heard that manic depression as it was called back in the days, was the illness that had the best outcomes in terms of responding to medication and to become manageable during (longer) treatment.
      I guess it will depend on where on the spectrum you fall, more on the manic or more on the depressed site. I think they will ‘classify’ (ugly term!) more people on the ‘shizopfrenic’ site as they display more psychotic episodes than can fit the ‘new’ diagnosis. But that is my observation at this moment. Just an opinion from someone who still likes Freud 🙂
      I thank you so much for being such an avid reader of my series! On Wednesday I still have a series on Trauma, Childhood and Health implications. On Monday I do myths or something. Next Tuesday there is a new series, one that can interest you 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not sure if I’m going to write about the different kinds, I have some knowledge here and there but it’s very specific and the timing must be right. (that one is a mystery 😉 ) maybe you can guess why :-). It was just a question to ask to my dear readers.

      To expand on the severity of depression, you mean like light, moderate and severe? I don’t know because I’m only familiar with mine. Which I don’t know what intensity that would be, I only know it is called a ‘vital’ depression and it feels intens enough to me.


  3. Hyperthyroidism can also be genetic, so it’s a good idea to check whether direct relatives had symptoms. Actually, a few of these conditions have some genetic element. I wonder if that’s partly where the genetic prediction of depression comes from?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aha, I’ve learned something new today 🙂 I didn’t know that was hereditary also.
      Difficult to say how they investigate that. When the precise cause of relatives isn’t known, it will do down (indeed) as an predisposition for depression itself.
      I guess doctors need to make a good clinical assessment to know what the primary condition is. And I think that there are a few factors prone to be overlooked.
      In those cases I have a strong belief in the person/patient itself. They usually know their family history and sometimes they have a very strong gut feeling of what is going on.
      Being ill for over a year I can tell you no doctor asked me about mine.
      Hence why I’m ‘investigating’ on my own in this blog. Thanks for reading and for your comments. I always look forward to reading them 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it pays to seek professional diagnosis and treatment when there’s something serious going on, but the patient has the most direct knowledge of their symptoms. I’m pretty sure I have a genetic tendency toward hyperthyroidism myself, since my mother and I both show symptoms.

        Liked by 1 person

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