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, making 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.

Know the warning signs

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), you should talk with your health care 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 options

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 options are medications and psychotherapy. They may be used alone or in combination. According to the NIMH, here's how they can help:

  • Medications 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 it.

  • 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 medication, 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 health care 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 medications. A medical checkup can help pinpoint what’s causing your symptoms. If depression is the cause, your health care 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.