How Untreated Depression Impacts the Brain Over Time

How Untreated Depression Impacts the Brain Over Time

Clinical depression is a mental illness that affects more than just the mind. It also affects the body, influences your thoughts, and shapes the way you view and feel about things. As one of the most common mental health disorders, clinical depression can be low- or high-functioning, affecting individuals differently.

Untreated Depression

Statistics show that nearly 322 million individuals across the world struggle with depression. In the US alone, it was estimated that 11 million individuals aged over 18 had experienced a major depressive episode at some point. However, only a fraction of these had been diagnosed and fewer still had received any treatment for it.

Untreated depression is a serious problem in the United States. It affects a person’s physical and psychological health and impacts their emotional well-being. People who continue to have their depression left untreated (either intentionally or unintentionally) are at risk of having a stroke and coronary heart disease,  feel fatigued more often, and even have trouble sleeping and adhering to a healthy lifestyle. They’re also at risk of cognitive impairment.

How Untreated Depression Leads to Cognitive Decline

Studies have shown that if left untreated for too long, depression alters a person’s brain. Individuals with major depressive disorders who don’t receive treatment for their illness may experience a permanent change in the makeup of their brains.

untreated depression

This discovery was made in a study conducted on 25 individuals who had been struggling with untreated depression (major depressive disorder) for over ten years, along with 25 individuals who had been struggling with depression for less than a decade. The results showed that the TSPO levels of people with a decade of untreated MDD were 30% higher in the prefrontal cortex than those who hadn’t been struggling for depression for as long. Brain inflammation was also seen to be higher in this group. Consequently, they were also at risk of developing a degenerative brain disease such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

By increasing brain inflammation and the TSPO levels, untreated depression leads to eventual cognitive decline. This can be prevented by identifying depression early on and devising proper and prompt treatment strategies for treating the condition. The longer the illness goes untreated, the more severe the consequences are as it alters the brain.

CEUs for Mental Health Counselors

At E Care Behavioral Health Institute, we offer webinar CEUs and training for professional counselors to help them improve their skills and enhance their knowledge. Our live webinars and recorded webinars help mental health experts stay updated with the latest techniques and concepts, and be more cognizant of their clients’ needs. Browse through our collection of webinars and courses to get started on training for professional counselors!