Depression is a serious mental health condition that may become deadly if untreated. In some people, untreated depression can cause them to take their own life. In addition, a person living with depression may experience related health problems that could ultimately lead to death.
Everyone has good and bad days. But some people experience more bad days than good.
If you experience a period of 2 weeks or longer where you feel sad or lose interest in activities you used to enjoy and have trouble functioning in your daily life, you may be experiencing depression
This article explores how living with a mental health condition such as depression could lead to death. If you’re experiencing any symptoms of depression, it’s important that you see a doctor or healthcare professional right away to receive treatment.
People living with untreated depression can experience a variety of physical health problems that can lead to death in some cases. In addition, in severe cases, a person living with depression may contemplate suicide. They may also resort to substance misuse for self-medication, which can lead to death.
Depression can make you feel like it’s not worth investing in yourself for treatment. But because depression can have serious psychological and physical consequences, the faster you start treatment, the sooner you’ll be able to manage your symptoms.
The following section explores in more detail the primary ways in which depression may lead to death.
About 21 million adults in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2020, which is
Among those living with depression and several other mental health conditions, the risk of suicide is about
If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number if there is imminent danger.
- Stay with the person until help arrives.
- Listen to the person, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
- Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 and follow their guidance.
Help is out there
If you or someone you know is in crisis and considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:
- Call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
- Text HOME to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
- Not in the United States? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.
- Call 911 or your local emergency services number if you feel safe to do so.
If you’re calling on behalf of someone else, stay with them until help arrives. You may remove weapons or substances that can cause harm if you can do so safely.
If you are not in the same household, stay on the phone with them until help arrives.
When a person experiences depression, they can experience a lot of different physical and mental symptoms. These can lead to other issues that can affect your physical health. These complications can sometimes be severe enough to be life-threatening.
Research shows that depression may be correlated with a variety of serious diseases. These
- heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
But these correlations don’t mean that depression necessarily causes these conditions. It simply means that these conditions can sometimes occur along with depression.
If you have chronically bad sleep, you’re also
If you’re living with depression, you may not be wanting to eat as usual and experience unwanted weight loss. Or you might feel an increase in cravings for certain foods, especially comfort foods. This may cause you to overeat, leading to weight gain.
Eating poorly, whether it involves not eating enough or eating unhealthily, can also lead to a variety of health problems. Research shows that poor diets contributed to as much as 22% of all deaths among U.S. adults in 2017.
Some people with depression experiment with substances and alcohol to self-medicate and manage their symptoms. This can put you at risk of developing a substance use disorder.
In cases of substance misuse, death can occur as a result of an accidental overdose. Nearly 92,000 Americans overdosed on illegal substances or prescription opioids in 2020, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Other causes of death related to substance misuse
Treatments can reduce the mental and physical issues associated with depression as well as your risk of death.
A doctor may recommend seeing a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist to receive treatment.
The following are some of the common treatments for depression.
Psychotherapy (talk therapy) is a long-term approach to depression treatment. It involves talking about your depression and related health issues with a professional.
There are several approaches to psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.
Therapy is usually done face-to-face in an office with a psychologist or psychiatrist. And these days, you can also receive therapy online or over the phone.
Your mental health professional will help you determine which therapy technique and format is best for you.
The goals of psychotherapy
- creating tools to adjust to emergency situations or adversity in a healthy way
- discovering how you’re thinking or behaving negatively and replacing them with healthier, positive ways of thinking and behaving
- looking more positively at your relationships and life experiences
- finding healthier ways to deal with and solve problems in your life
- determining what things in your life contribute to your depression and changing those things to reduce your depression
- helping you to feel more satisfaction in — and to gain control of — your life
- learning how to set more realistic life goals
- learning how to accept sadness and distress in your life in a healthier way
- reducing your mental and physical depression symptoms
In some cases, therapy isn’t enough to help a person cope with their depression. In these situations, a mental health professional might recommend medication.
The overall goal of using medication is to ease depression symptoms so that a person can be more receptive to the benefits of therapy.
Some common depression medications
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
- serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
- tricyclic antidepressants
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors
- other medications such as mood stabilizers or antipsychotics
Making healthy life choices, such as eating healthily and exercising, can help you feel your best and limit the symptoms of depression.
According to one 2021 study, moderate exercise
When you or someone you know is living with depression, it can be hard to get the motivation to take care of your health or for them to take care of theirs. But if you can put some effort into this area, you may feel significantly better. While this might not be enough as a treatment for severe depression, it can be a great start.
Here you’ll find answers to additional questions relating to depression and mortality.
How can I cope with depression?
Depression is a chronic condition that requires treatment in order to be managed. Your depression may never fully go away, but sticking to your treatment plan can give you the tools you need to live a fulfilling and happy life.
In addition, sticking to a few daily habits may also help you feel better. They include:
- Get support: When you have depression, it’s important not to isolate yourself. Instead, keep interacting regularly with supportive friends, loved ones, and peers. You can also join support groups such as the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (AADA) or Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).
- Do activities you enjoy: Make time daily to do something that brings you joy. It can be something as simple as watching a movie or reading a book, playing sports, or engaging in an art activity such as painting.
- Write down your feelings: Keeping a daily journal where you can honestly write how you feel will help you release negative feelings instead of keeping them bottled up.
Does depression cause early death?
According to a 2016 study that categorized people as either men or women, depression can reduce life expectancy by about
Are sex and gender the same thing?
People often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, but they have different meanings:
- Sex: “Sex” refers to the physical characteristics that differentiate male, female, and intersex bodies.
- Gender: “Gender” refers to a person’s identity and how they feel inside. Examples include man, woman, nonbinary, agender, bigender, genderfluid, pangender, and trans. A person’s gender identity may be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Can you die of a broken heart?
While depression can be considered a type of severe sadness, there are situations in which sadness not necessarily caused by depression may lead to death. In cases of grief after the passing of a loved one or extreme distress or shock for another reason, a person can experience heart failure.
This is known as broken-heart syndrome or takotsubo cardiomyopathy. The condition often affects people who already have cardiovascular problems, but not always. It is, however, pretty rare, affecting less than 50,000 people in the U.S.
Depression is a serious mental health condition that can severely impact your quality of life. When depression is untreated, it can affect your physical health in a way that can ultimately cause death. A person with depression is also more at risk of attempting suicide.
But getting the right support and treatment can make a huge difference. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If you or someone you know is experiencing depression symptoms that last for more than 2 weeks, it’s important to tell a friend or loved one and see a mental health professional for evaluation.