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National Institutes of Health

What illnesses often coexist with depression in women?

Depression often coexists with other illnesses that may precede the depression, follow it, cause it, be a consequence of it, or a combination of these. It is likely that the interplay between depression and other illnesses differs for every person and situation. Regardless, these other coexisting illnesses need to be diagnosed and treated.

Depression often coexists with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and others, especially among women. Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder, also sometimes accompany depression.15,16 Women are more prone than men to having a coexisting anxiety disorder.17 Women suffering from PTSD, which can result after a person endures a terrifying ordeal or event, are especially prone to having depression.

Although more common among men than women, alcohol and substance abuse or dependence may occur at the same time as depression.17,15 Research has indicated that among both sexes, the coexistence of mood disorders and substance abuse is common among the U.S. population.18

Depression also often coexists with other serious medical illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, thyroid problems and multiple sclerosis, and may even make symptoms of the illness worse.19 Studies have shown that both women and men who have depression in addition to a serious medical illness tend to have more severe symptoms of both illnesses. They also have more difficulty adapting to their medical condition, and more medical costs than those who do not have coexisting depression. Research has shown that treating the depression along with the coexisting illness will help ease both conditions.20