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Nearly 19 million Americans annually are affected by depressive disorders. In addition to depression's often-disabling symptoms, it may also lead to other complications that impact virtually every aspect of your life. Depression is typically characterized by persistent sadness, low energy and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. People with depression are also at risk for a number of serious complications that may result in physical problems, financial troubles, relationship issues or even, in more serious cases, suicide. Often, the apathy, lethargy and difficulty concentrating that typically accompany depressive illness may cause sufferers to be incapable of meeting their day-to-day responsibilities, leading to work or school absences, overlooked bills, arguments at home, and even job loss. Insomnia is characteristic of many forms of depression and being unable to meet the body's need for restorative sleep may lead to a number of complications, including slowed reactions when driving, a compromised immune system and heightened risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Experts also believe depression not only increases the risk of heart disease, but may AMPLIFY the severity of existing cardiac conditions as well. It's also thought that depression changes in bone mass may be accelerated by depression, leading to osteoporosis. People with depression may also experience multiple unexplained physical symptoms including stomach aches, migraines, aching muscles, and severe back or abdominal pain. Research suggests this is because mood and pain use the same pathways in the brain and are controlled by the same chemical messengers. It's also believed that reduced levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, and to a lesser degree, norepinephrine, may prompt stress-related responses in the body that can lead to inflammation and changes in blood clotting, as well as cell and organ damage. Depression sufferers may turn to drugs or alcohol in order to feel better, but this ultimately creates more problems in the long run. In addition, people who are taking antidepressants to treat their depression may be at risk for side effects, such as dizziness, weight gain or loss, tremors, sweating, sleepiness or insomnia, fatigue, or headaches. Another complication is the impact depression may have on a person's sex life, as depression tends to reduce both the sex drive and the ability to enjoy sex. In addition, the side effects of antidepressant medications often include reduced libido and sexual dysfunction. Depression also complicates relationships. Sufferers who are struggling with depression symptoms may be unable to consider the needs of others. At the same time, family members, friends and coworkers may feel hurt and rejected. Often, survival of even the most secure relationships is threatened. Parental depression also takes its toll on children. Depressed mothers may be less attentive to prenatal care or an infant's needs. Having a depressed parent is also linked to reduced social skills and self-esteem, increased stress and vulnerability for depression in children. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common in many types of depression. Depression sufferers have up to a 15 percent risk for suicide. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, it's imperative to call 911 or a suicide hotline. Fortunately depression can be treated successfully and these complications may be avoided. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, see your doctor or a mental health professional.