ZocdocAnswersWhat are the side effects of untreated depression?

Question

What are the side effects of untreated depression?

My dad has had depression, on and off, for several years. He's never gone to a doctor, but it's completely obvious. I've noticed some other things, too - like memory loss. Could this be a side effect of having depression and not treating it? What other side effects should we watch for?

Answer

Depression is an extremely common illness that affects approximately 20 million Americans. It is a very serious illness that interferes with daily living and makes it very difficult for a person to function in his or her usual routine. Depression manifests as a collection of symptoms which can vary from person to person. These signs and symptoms include a depressed mood, lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy (e.g., anhedonia), alteration of the sleep/wake cycle (e.g., sleeping too much or restless sleep), alteration of dietary intake (e.g., eating too much or too little), difficulty concentrating and irritability. These symptoms in turn may have consequences, such as weight loss or weight gain, poor performance at work or school, accidents from fatigue, etc. Your father's memory problems could certainly be a result of depression, especially if his depression has been chronic and untreated. In fact, this is a common indication for depression screening in the elderly population. Often times, a detailed neurologic evaluation for other causes of memory loss (i.e., dementia) may not be helpful unless any underlying depression is adequately treated first. In either case, you should try to convince your father to see his primary care physician, who can help him with his depressive symptoms and get to the root of his memory problems.

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