Can Depression Affect the Immune System?

by | Jun 22, 2022 | Issues, Lifestyle, Special Issue - Dr. Beau Daniels | 0 comments

People are vulnerable to many disorders throughout their lives, such as depression, which can alter and harm your immune system and overall health. But how does depression affect the immune...

People are vulnerable to many disorders throughout their lives, such as depression, which can alter and harm your immune system and overall health. But how does depression affect the immune system?


What is a Depressed Immune System?

We usually talk of the immune system as being ‘depressed’ when it is weaker and more prone to infections. Many disorders can lead to a depressed immune system. Some are with us from birth, but others we develop throughout our lives. They can be either mild or severe, but they have the same effect on the immune system. Aside from the higher risk of contracting an infection, people with a depressed immune system can also experience severe symptoms and rougher outcomes. 

A depressed immune system can lead to higher risks of contracting pneumonia, meningitis, bronchitis and numerous infections, appearing more frequently as the immune system is too weak to fight them off. Also, a depressed immune system can lead to autoimmune disorders, inflammation of organs, digestive issues, blood disorders and developmental delays in children


The Link between Depression and the Immune System 

A new study, and the only one of its kind, has finally confirmed a connection between the overtime effects of depression and changes in the immune system regarding its function. Researchers performed a test that helped determine a cell’s ability to alter its shape. The test uses healthy blood samples monitored during body changes. 

The study found that raised stress hormones caused by a depressive disorder cause cells to deform and become injured in the long term. 


The Effects of Depression on the Immune System

A depressive disorder’s physical symptoms show first and foremost in the body’s immune system. Researchers found that the connection between depression’s physical effects and the immune system is quite strong. Depression is well known to impact the body’s sleep schedule, appetite and immune system’s ability to function. So, if the elements that keep the immune system’s ability to function intact are affected and impaired, it is only natural that the immune system will suffer. 


Illnesses Caused by Depression 

Depression can have other dangerous effects in the long term. Besides weakening their immune system, people experiencing depression can also become more prone to illnesses and disorders such as:


#1: Infections

The immune system is known to protect the body from infection, which is why a weakened immune system is more susceptible to contraction infections and viruses. Because the immune system is not as strong as before depression took its toll on it, infections are more likely to develop. Research shows that 62% of people hospitalized with severe infections are more likely to experience mood disorders such as depression. 


#2: Heart Disease

Depression affects your sleep schedule and, therefore, your energy levels. Low energy levels increase the risks of developing heart diseases and problems such as high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.


#3: Autoimmune Diseases

People experiencing depression or other mood disorders are more prone to end up in the hospital because of their autoimmune diseases. Also, 45% of people already having an autoimmune disease are more likely to become depressed. Disorders such as lupus, psoriasis, arthritis and Graves disease are caused by a weak immune system, causing long-term pain, disability and depression. 


Managing a Weak Immune System 

Keeping yourself healthy when experiencing a depressed immune system is essential. You should contact a doctor about your mood disease because they are the only ones that can genuinely help you. But in the meantime, you can do something about your immune system’s health.


#1: Avoid Sick People

Because your immune system is already fragile, it’s essential to avoid people who can infect you with different viruses and bacteria. In addition, it will be harder to regain your immune system’s strength if you keep getting sick and develop infections. So, avoid meeting with sick people, but if it’s impossible to avoid a particular sick person, refrain from close contact such as handshaking, hugging and kissing. 


#2: Maintain Strong Hygiene

Keeping your immune system healthy is directly correlated with good hygiene. Even the simple act of washing your hands can spare you an unwanted disease. Try to wash your hand as many times as possible:

  • Before eating;
  • After using the bathroom;
  • After sneezing, blowing your nose or coughing;
  • After close contact with a sick person;
  • After, while and before preparing food;
  • After touching garbage;
  • After petting an animal ;
  • After helping a child use the bathroom.

Proper handwashing can work wonders and reduce the risk of developing illnesses by a landslide. Also, teaching your child to regularly wash their hands can save them from pneumonia and diarrheal diseases.


#3: Stress Management

When going through depression, stress is a huge factor that weakens the immune system. Excessive stress gets people sick and more prone to different illnesses. Taking the matter into your hands is essential to avoid any diseases you can develop. Practicing meditation, yoga, massages, hobbies and staying around your loved ones will lower your stress levels and help your immune system regain its strength. 


#4: Don’t Forget to Sleep

Getting insufficient amounts of sleep can obstruct the production of white blood cells, one of the main components of the immune system. In addition, the lack of sleep can result in the same effects as stress does. So, try and achieve at least seven hours of sleep a day, and don’t be afraid to take a nap from time to time. 


A Parting Reminder 

Keeping the immune system healthy is essential as it protects you from viruses, illnesses and infections. If you are experiencing a mood disorder and notice that you have some of the symptoms listed above, you might have a depressive immune system. Don’t be afraid to see a specialist; your health always comes first!

Mălina O. R.

Mălina O. R.