The Metabolic Syndrome: A Risk for Depression
Everyone feels a little down now and then. When you have the metabolic syndrome, it’s
also common to feel blue about your health concerns once in a while. But when the
mood lingers, it could be a sign of depression. If left untreated, depression can
make it hard to function at home, work, or school. Fortunately, treatment is available.
The link between the metabolic syndrome and depression goes both ways. Managing various
health problems can cause stress, and stress can trigger depression in certain people.
Being depressed can sap your energy and motivation. This makes it harder for you to
take good care of yourself. In turn, this may cause your physical condition to get
worse. Research has shown that people with more visceral fat or an apple-shaped body—two
factors associated with the metabolic syndrome—are more likely to have depression.
Also, addressing some of the components of the metabolic syndrome has been shown to
lead to more effective management of depression.
Know the warning signs
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), you should talk with
your healthcare provider if you have several of these signs of depression and they
last for more than a couple of weeks:
Ongoing feelings of sadness, emptiness, or anxiety
Loss of interest or pleasure in the activities you once enjoyed
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
Tiredness or lack of energy
Restlessness or irritability
Eating more or less than usual
Sleeping too much or too little
Trouble thinking clearly or making decisions
Unexplained aches, pains, or digestive problems
Thoughts of death or suicide
Understand your choices
If you recognize any of these signs in yourself, it’s important to take action. Depression
is a real illness that affects not only your brain, but also your whole body. You
can seek treatment that helps you feel better. The main treatment choices are medicines
and psychotherapy. They may be used alone or in combination. According to the NIMH,
here's how they can help:
Medicines to treat depression (also called antidepressants). These may be prescribed to correct imbalances in brain chemicals that play a role
in maintaining moods. There are several types of antidepressants that can help improve
mood, sleep, appetite, and concentration. Although antidepressants may start helping
within a week or two, you might not feel the full effects for two to three months.
Some antidepressants may lead to weight gain—but a healthy lifestyle can help control
Psychotherapy. This is the formal name for talk therapy. It helps change patterns in thoughts, behaviors,
and relationships that may contribute to depression. Homework is sometimes assigned
so that you can keep working on problems between therapy sessions. As with medicine,
getting better takes time. Many people with depression see significant improvement
after just 10 to 15 sessions.
Physical activity. Regular physical activity and exercise helps with relieving depression.
Reach out for help
If you have a case of the blues that you just can’t seem to shake, discuss it with
your healthcare provider. Symptoms of depression can sometimes be the result of a
medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder. They can also be a side effect of certain
medicines. A medical checkup can help pinpoint what’s causing your symptoms. If depression
is the cause, your healthcare provider can help you find the right treatment.
If you’re having trouble getting help on your own, confide in a trusted family member
or friend. Chances are good that they already know something is wrong and want to
help. Don’t try to tough it out alone. Left untreated, depression can hang around
for weeks, months, or even years. But with treatment, you can begin to gradually feel
better. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you’ll feel better.