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Depression with Bidirectional Illnesses

Depression with Bidirectional Illnesses

I've said this before... depression doesn't walk alone in most cases. The importance of this cannot be emphasized enough because the coexistence of conditions often lead to worsening conditions. The constant exposure/experience of the simultaneous illnesses often end up in competition for attention which feed the cycle and make things worse for both (or multiple conditions).

While I cannot list all combinations in this post, I'd like to illustrate the point with some common occurrences.

Depression and Insomnia

It has been proven by research that insomnia is a huge risk factor for depression as well as a consequence of depression.

This is not hard to understand. In layman terms, those of us who don't get enough sleep often experience lack of energy, memory problems, and a host of other symptoms that make normal functioning of body and mind difficult on a daily basis. The frustration with not being able to do all the things we 'should' be doing can turn into depression.

On the flip side, depression often sends us into way too much thinking which takes time away from sleep. The constant exposure to worrying, self-examination, and a slew of other non-productive activities keep us awake and result in insomnia.

Depression and Diabetes

Much research attention has been paid to the investigation of co-occurrence of depression and diabetes. Here is one research with a large sample that provides evidence to the bidirectional nature.

The depression 'generated' diabetes should be no surprise! Those of us with depression often crave carbohydrates. If not controlled, we can end up with diabetes.

I'm not knowledgeable enough about diabetes to speak authoritatively on the life with the condition. But, I can only imagine that the constant restriction of foods, monitoring sugar levels, and being aware of not being 'normal' wears on people. This physical condition can lead to mental issues like depression and anxiety.

Other depression comorbidity research

Increasing number of research investigations focus on the co-occurring conditions with depression. Here are a few to illustrate the extent:

Autoimmune disorders 
Vitiligo
Epilepsy
Heart failure
Figromyalgia syndrome (FMS)
Anxiety and insomnia

My own cancer and depression experience

I've had depression ever since I can remember (yes, including early childhood). I had cancer twice, and got formally diagnosed with depression after the second time at age 38. Was my depression responsible for the cancer occurrence? Well, my research said that ~50% of cause is due to stress and anxiety... which are not uncommon with depression. So, I think, in my case the cancer was a result of long-term depression.

Since then, I've had to radically change my work and life to avoid stressful situations. This is hard because I love what I do (business strategy and operations). If you don't believe the necessity to change your mind, life, and work, then let my experience serve as an example. When I went back to work after the first occurrence of cancer, I thought I could continue without change. I was wrong... second occurrence! Then, it took me ~3 years to change mind, life rhythm, managing depression, finding a new professional life to get where I am (no disruptive depression episodes).

You the picture!

From my perspective, mental health cannot be separated from physical health as all the above research tells us so. The trick is to find the original illness that drives the onset of the consequent conditions. I think, too often, secondary conditions are being 'symptom' treated while the underlying condition is left unchanged. Of course, this is hard when the secondary condition is a physical threat to our lives like diabetes.

I hope this is useful for all!


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