Side Effects of Acute Depression

What are the Side Effects of Acute Depression?

Major depressive disorder or acute depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the U.S. Worldwide, depression is responsible as the number one cause of disability. Recent studies indicate that of all people diagnosed with depression, up to two-thirds will not get treatment for their disorder. Social stigma, a lack of local treatment options, and the very symptoms common to depression can make accessing treatment difficult for many patients.

Untreated acute depression is responsible for many different side effects, including an increase in suicidal behaviors and risk-taking. Increased incidences of drug use, alcoholism, and self-harm can be linked back to untreated major depression. The following article will explore the different side effects of acute major depression, how common those side effects are, and where people can go to get help for their symptoms.

Acute Effects of Depression

What is acute depression?

Acute depression is also known as major depressive disorder, unipolar depression, or clinical depression. The illness can range from mild to severe, and from temporary episodes to persistent, long-term depression. This disorder isn’t the same as grief from the death of a loved one or other significant loss. Acute depression is a serious medical disorder. To diagnose acute depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks and not caused by something physiological, such as thyroid disorder.


  • Pervasive feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • A general feeling of guilt or shame
  • Increased agitation
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or usually pleasurable activities
  • Trouble sleeping, either sleeping too much or too little
  • Fatigue and a lack of energy
  • Slowed movements and speech
  • Changes in appetite, weight loss or weight gain
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Problems concentrating
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts

Antidepressant medications and talk therapy can help people manage their depression symptoms. Depression happens in episodes, or bouts of depression. The more episodes of depression a person experiences without treatment, the worse each subsequent episode can get. Acute, clinical depression isn’t something a person can get over with willpower and positive thinking. Brain imagery in depressed patients shows that there are permanent changes in brain structure when the disorder is left untreated.

What are the side effects of depression and are they dangerous?

Although depression starts in the brain, its effects can be felt throughout a person’s body. Depressions symptoms also affect a person’s ability to function in day-to-day life. People with depression experience higher incidences of chronic medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, back issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. These patients also experience worse health outcomes when seeking treatment for their physical ailments. Also, untreated depression can weaken a person’s immune system, making them susceptible to infections.

One of the most serious side effects of severe depression is attempted suicide. Of all people diagnosed with depression, one in five of them will attempt suicide. In the United States, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. Middle-aged, white men have the highest risk of suicide. Suicide and suicidal injuries cost the U.S. economy 69 billion dollars per year.

Despite the dangers associated with depression, depression can be effectively treated. Studies show that treatment for depression is effective in up to 80% of cases. For people who do not respond to traditional treatment methods, deep brain stimulation techniques can help.

How does acute depression affect different parts of the body?


Depression makes it difficult for the sufferer to concentrate. They may experience decision-making problems, memory issues, and “brain fog.” Insomnia, another sign of depression, can also worsen cognitive symptoms. A lack of sleep can be responsible for irritability and agitation in depressed patients.

Activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, responsible for decision making, is decreased in depression sufferers. Depressed patients also experience decreased difficulty following doctor’s orders and instructions. These cognitive side effects can worsen other health problems if depressed patients forget to take their medication or participate in therapy.


People with depression are at increased risk of heart attacks. Stress and depression constrict blood vessels, raising the risk of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is also a trigger for depression. Up to 15% of all newly diagnosed heart disease patients will develop depression.

Weight Fluctuations

Depression causes sufferers to either eat too much or too little. Increased weight can lead to obesity-related issues, including diabetes and arthritis. Eating too little can lead to nutritional deficiencies as well.

Weakened Immunity

Untreated acute depression weakens the immune system, which can cause an increased risk of mild to severe infections, from the common cold to pneumonia.

Aches and Pains

People with depression will experience an increase in aches and pains that do not respond to medication. This can severely impact a person’s functioning and quality of life.

Substance Abuse

There is a high risk of drug or alcohol abuse in cases of untreated depression. Studies show that up to 30% of all people with a substance abuse problem also suffer from clinical depression. Depression symptoms can cause people to drink or get high as a short-term solution for deep-seated feelings of sadness, guilt, and the physical aches and pains of the disorder.

Unfortunately, a substance or alcohol use disorder will worsen symptoms of depression and make both conditions more difficult to treat, although treatment is not impossible for this group of patients.

The side effects of untreated, acute depression can severely impact an individual on many levels, from their personal relationships to their physical health and their careers. The side effects of untreated, acute depression also impact society — the U.S. economy loses up to 83 billion dollars per year in productivity losses stemming from depression.

Depression is a severe disorder, but there are many different, effective treatment methods available for patients. A majority of patients respond positively to a combination of medication and different types of therapy. For patients who do not respond well to medication, ECT and TMS are promising alternatives for depression.

If you or a loved one are suffering from the symptoms of acute depression, know that there is help available. Please reach out to a knowledgeable mental health counselor today and explore your treatment options.