Co-occurring depression and medical illness are frequent problems.  When someone has cancer, heart disease, diabetes or has had a stroke, it’s not surprising that they would have a co-occurring depression. Individuals suffering from a medical illness and a co-occurring depression can be treated effectively. Co-occurring depression and medical illness is a common condition although fairly serious, with the risks being higher with more serious medical conditions. But often co-occurring depression with medical conditions may go unrecognized and untreated because the medical disorder masks the symptoms of the co-occurring depression.  

How Co-occurring Depression and Medical Illness Affect Treatment

  • Studies show that nearly 74% of people in the U.S. who suffer from depression are far more likely to see their primary care physician rather than seek help from a professional in the mental health field.
  • It’s been determined that 5% to 10% of individuals with medical conditions seen in a primary care facility are suffering from depression, meaning that they have co-occurring depression and medical illness. Among patients admitted to a hospital for a medical condition, about 10% – 14% are suffering from depression, so about 10 -14% of patients in the hospital also are experiencing co-occurring depression.
  • It stands to reason that the patients with more serious medical conditions have a higher likelihood of suffering from a co-occurring depression.
  • Those suffering from a co-occurring depression have more difficulty following prescribed medical regimens. They’re suffering greater distress and therefore their functioning is impaired making it more difficult for them to take care of themselves which hinders their treatment.

The Connection between Co-occurring Depression and Medical Illnesses

  • As people are diagnosed with a medical illness they will naturally have a psychological reaction to their prognosis, which can lead to co-occurring depression. They are dealing with the pain of their illness, perhaps they’ve become physically incapacitated and it stands to reason that this would affect them emotionally.
  • However just because co-occurring depression and medical illness may be occurring at the same time, doesn’t always mean they are related.

Co-occurring Depression and Heart Disease

  • For patients who have had a heart attack, 40% to 65% suffer from co-occurring depression and this medical illness.
  • For those with coronary heart disease, but have yet to experience a heart attack, 18% to 20% are experiencing co-occurring depression.
  • When a patient who’s just had a heart attack has major depression, they’re three to four time more likely to die within six months after their heart attack, than similar patients who are not experiencing a co-occurring depression.
  • Studies show that both men and women who are depressed have an increased risk of coronary artery disease and depressed men have a greater risk of dying compared to women who are depressed.

Co-occurring Depression and Stroke

  • Among survivors of a stroke 10% to 27% experience co-occurring depression of at least one year duration.
  • Another 15% to 40% of survivors of a stroke feel some of the symptoms of a depressed mood within a two month period post-stroke.
  • People who claim they’re experiencing five or more symptoms of depression have more than a 50% likelihood of dying from a stroke in the following 29 years.Co-occurring depression and medical illness in this case can be fatal.

Co-occurring Depression and Cancer

  • Someone with cancer has a 25% risk of also suffering from co-occurring depression.
  • Sometimes corticosteroids or chemotherapy, both common treatments for cancer, can mask the symptoms of depression, and can then be mistaken as side effects of these treatments.
  • Symptoms of co-occurring depression such as loss of appetite and weight, a lack of energy and trouble sleeping are also commonly experienced among cancer patients, so the co-occurring depression and medical illness in this case may be missed.

Co-occurring Depression and Diabetes

  • Approximately 25% of those diagnosed with adult onset diabetes will develop co-occurring depression.
  • Among patients who develop diabetic complications, 70% also experience co-occurring dep With diabetes, the co-occurring depression and medical illness can have significant complications.

Because our treatment for depression and medical illnesses relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and medical illnesses.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of depression and related disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of co-occurring depression and medical illness, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.