Depression and Other Issues

Depression and Other Issues

Depression and Other Issues

What Other Issues are Commonly Linked to Depression?

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in adults ages 15 to 44. In a given year, 6.7% of the US adult population will experience an onset of major depressive disorder. As one of the most common mental health conditions, depression often presents with other behavioral, mental health, and emotional issues. Comorbidity between depression and anxiety, another common mental health condition, is 60%. The following article will explore the most common comorbid issues linked to depression, and how the interplay of each can worsen symptoms if the conditions are left untreated.

What are the most common comorbid issues linked to depression?

Anxiety disorders are the most common comorbid issues linked to depression. Often, anxiety symptoms precipitate the onset of a depressive episode. Recent studies show that up to a quarter of all adolescents suffer from an anxiety disorder. Left untreated, these children are at high risk of engaging in substance abuse.

It is not well understood why depression and anxiety are so frequently linked, but there are two distinct theories now widely circulated within the field of psychiatry.

1. The two conditions have similar biological mechanisms in the brain.

Because the mechanisms in the brain are similar in depression and anxiety, researchers theorize that this might be the reason why the two conditions often present together.

2. The symptoms often overlap, so patients meet the criteria for both conditions.

Many of the diagnostic symptoms of depression and anxiety are the same or overlap. For example, both anxiety and depression can cause sufferers to experience insomnia and other problems falling or staying asleep. In some cases, people who experience an external stressor will present with symptoms of anxiety and depression at the same time.

For most clinicians, recognizing one disorder is a straightforward process. But when a person presents with comorbid conditions, it can be incredibly difficult for patients to receive an accurate diagnosis. Also, medications and other treatment methods for one condition may contradict another, making treatment of comorbid conditions even more difficult. So, patients have a difficult time at the start of getting the right diagnosis, and then treatment for two different mental health conditions can be even harder to find, although not impossible.

For clinicians to give a patient with comorbidity an accurate diagnosis, they need to spend a lot of time with the patient, research any collateral sources of information, and also speak to close friends and family members. The healthcare system is fragmented and can make the process of diagnosis and treatment difficult. Also, most research studies on mental health conditions are focused on patients with only one condition. Treatments, therefore, are guided by research outcomes based on one illness.

Substance abuse disorder is another condition that is commonly linked to depression.

Recent studies indicate that one-third of patients with major depressive disorder also have a comorbid substance abuse disorder. Comorbid substance abuse and depression increase the risk of suicide in untreated patients. Alcohol abuse is commonly associated with major depressive disorder.

Treating comorbid depression and substance abuse with medication is known to be effective, but differential treatment methods for these disorders are also understudied as well. Overall, the risk of comorbid depression with substance abuse disorder is 8.3% for U.S. adults.

Who is most at risk of developing depression when they already have another disorder?

Men are twice as likely than women to develop comorbid depression and substance abuse, while women are more likely to suffer from anxiety and comorbid depression. Lower socioeconomic status and being African American increase the risk of developing depression and substance abuse disorder in adulthood. Dropping out of high school is one of the most significant risk factors for developing comorbid depression and substance use disorder. Family conflict and adverse childhood conditions also increase the risk of comorbidity for both conditions.

What can someone do to treat comorbid depression that is linked to other issues?

Comorbid depression, anxiety, and substance abuse can be effectively treated with a combination of different medications and therapies. SSRIs and SNRIs are often used in conjunction with CBT and one-on-one therapy in the treatment of depression and comorbid anxiety. TMS therapy is becoming more and more common in treating comorbid depression and anxiety. For patients suffering from substance abuse and depression, inpatient rehab along with medication, and therapy are effective treatment methods.

Unfortunately, though, there is a segment of the population of comorbid individuals who will present with treatment-resistant depression. Between 10% and 30% of depression patients will not improve, or only show a partial improvement with medication.

What can someone do if they have treatment-resistant depression?

Deep brain stimulation techniques for treatment-resistant depression and comorbid mental health conditions have proven promising for patients. For years, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was the first line of treatment for treatment-resistant depression. It is still used today, but the side effects on memory and cognition can affect patients’ quality of life. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)  techniques are as effective as ECT, but they do not cause the unpleasant side effects on memory and cognitive functioning common with ECT treatment.

In TMS therapy, a magnetic coil is placed over the head and used to target specific areas of the brain that are known to affect depression and other mental health disorder symptoms. Each treatment session takes about an hour, and patients can return to their normal activities the same day.

Up to 60% of patients with treatment-resistant depression who undergo TMS experience a significant, meaningful alleviation of symptoms. One-third of patients will experience a full remission of symptoms after therapy. Most treatment methods for depression and comorbid symptoms do experience a recurrence, but TMS patients often feel better for months after treatment. The length of time for recurrence is over a year in TMS patients. It is safe for TMS patients to receive subsequent rounds of treatment for a recurrence of symptoms.

Although comorbid conditions are not always well understood, there is hope. Most patients respond well to a combination of medication and therapy. For those with treatment-resistant depression and comorbid mental health conditions, deep brain stimulation techniques are highly effective.

Does TMS Help Somatic Disorders?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is one of the leading causes of disability around the globe. Researchers know there is a link between chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart problems, and depressive disorders, but they also know depression causes aches, pains, and other physical complaints. Some people, especially those with mood disorders, spend so much thinking about physical symptoms that it affects their ability to function. This is known as a somatic syndrome disorder.

What Is Somatic Syndrome Disorder?

Somatic symptom disorder is a condition that causes a person to focus excessively on physical symptoms, such as fatigue, pain, or shortness of breath, in a way that is out of proportion to their severity. The symptoms may or may not be related to a physical condition, but the symptoms are real symptoms and feel like a physical illness:

  • Seeing normal sensations as an illness symptom
  • Constantly fearing getting sick
  • Showing concern over serious illness when there is no evidence
  • Thinking prior diagnosis or treatment has been inadequate
  • Being afraid of participating in normal activities
  • Not responding to treatment
  • Repeatedly check for things that are wrong with the body
  • Frequent doctor visits with lack of improvement
  • Being sensitive to side effects
  • Having greater disability than a disease normally causes

When treating somatic symptom disorders, doctors concentrate more on the way patients interpret and react to symptoms than they do with their physical manifestation. Somatic complaints may overlap with symptoms of depression, making diagnosis more difficult.

What Causes Somatic Disorders?

Medical providers may not pinpoint the reason for somatic symptoms, but they know factors like these play a role:

  • Family history
  • Genes and biology
  • Personality
  • Ability to process emotions
  • Learned behavior

Risk factors include anxiety or depression, having or being at risk for medical conditions, past trauma, stress, poverty, and lack of education. Somatic disorder may accompany poor health or disabilities, relationship problems, work issues or unemployment, financial hardship, or other mental health conditions. It may also increase symptoms of depression and the risk of suicide.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Somatic Disorder

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive technology used to stimulate areas of the brain related to depression and other mental disorders. In a 2018 study, researchers examined the effectiveness of TMS for treating somatic disorders, a condition that is resistant to existing treatments. Over 18 sessions, all five patients showed significant improvement in daily activities and pain relief.

Additional research has shown improvement in participants with somatic disorder that occurs with other psychiatric conditions, such as depression or anxiety. This chart shows the effectiveness of TMS for various conditions.

Depression Treatment Southern California

If you’re looking for depression treatment in Southern California, talk to our experienced team about transcranial magnetic stimulation. Effective when used with traditional therapies or in treatment-resistant conditions, the sessions offer relief for symptoms of depression and other conditions.

Contact us online to learn more about our services.

Updated 3/21/21