What happens if you leave depression untreated?

By: Dzhingarov

There is no quick fix for depression. It is an illness that affects the whole self, from the physical body to thoughts and emotions. Sufferers cannot just pull themselves together. Proper treatment however, which may include the use of antidepressant medication and possibly psychotherapy, can usually help sufferers pull through.

But without proper help depression can last for extended periods and become more severe. The results are potentially devastating.


Ability to function normally

Depression can seriously affect your ability to function normally. It can impair rational thought, cause you to be forgetful and can render the simplest of tasks more difficult. This can adversely impact on your performance at work, placing your job in jeopardy, and reduce your ability to take care of your family. It is possible that this could place family members, friends or colleagues at risk.


General health

By Hendrike 11:08, 3 May 2006 (UTC) (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Increasingly, evidence suggests that depression takes a heavy toll on the physical health of sufferers. It has been shown to exacerbate pre-existing conditions like lung disease and diabetes and to increase your vulnerability to infections and even cancer. Users may experience unexplained pains or take longer to recover from illness and surgery, partly because it is difficult to remember to take medication and follow advice. Recent research also points to the possibility that depression can lead to other conditions, including dementia.


Unnecessary suffering

Associated with depression is pain that is far more intense than any physical experience. This is intensified by the sense of hopelessness that accompanies the illness, which often means that sufferers do not seek help.

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Substance abuse

Sufferers may turn to alcohol or drugs to alleviate their pain. These substances are more harmful than helpful and will lead to a worsening of the condition. Regular, uncontrolled use of alcohol or drugs can also lead to addiction.



Some people try to deal with depression by harming themselves. They do not necessarily want to cause serious damage and use cutting or burning as a means of coping with their problem. This can, however, have serous consequences as, sometimes, they do more harm than intended, with serious or even fatal results.



The inner feeling of hopelessness or rage that often accompanies depression can lead to reckless behaviour without thought for the consequences. You may drive too fast or drive under the influence, expose yourself to unnecessary danger or generally put yourself at risk.


Interpersonal relations

Seeing you suffer and struggle with your illness will take a toll on your family and friends if you do not seek treatment. Under stress your emotions will be unstable – you may have bouts of anger or tears. You may also want to withdraw from social contact. All this will make it difficult for those around you to cope and could potentially damage your relationships in the long term.



Suicidal thoughts are part and parcel of depression. They can be fleeting but suicide sometimes seems like the only way to escape the pain and the hopelessness. If depression is left untreated, there is a risk that these thoughts will become more intense and regular, and could lead to death.

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These consequences of untreated depression are avoidable. If you or anyone you know is showing signs of depression, help is available and the suffering can be alleviated.