Clinical depression is a common and serious medical illness that can be effectively treated.  The risk of clinical depression is often higher in individuals with serious medical illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.  However, the warning signs are frequently discounted by patients and family members, who mistakenly assume feeling depressed is normal for people struggling with serious health conditions.  In addition, the symptoms of depression are frequently masked by these other medical illnesses, resulting in treatment that addresses the symptoms but not the underlying depression.  It is a myth that depression is a “normal” emotional response to another illness; it’s extremely important to simultaneously treat both medical illnesses.

Impact of Depression in Primary Care Settings

Why Depression and Medical Illnesses Often Occur Together

Prevalence of Depression Co-occurring with Other Medical Illnesses

Heart Disease and Depression

Stroke and Depression

Cancer and Depression

Diabetes and Depression

Eating Disorders and Depression

Alcohol/Drugs and Depression

Common Symptoms of Depression and Other Medical Disorders

Importance of Treatment


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[2]    National Institute of Mental Health, “Co-occurrence of Depression with Medical, Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Disorders,”

[3]   National Institute of Mental Health, “Depression Co-occurring with General Medical Disorders,” 

[4]    National Institute of Mental Health, “Co-occurrence of Depression with Heart Disease,” 

[5] Ferketich, A, Schwartzbaum, J, Frid, D, Moeschberger, M. Depression as an Antecedent to Heart Disease Among Women and Men in the NHANES I Study. Archives of Internal Medicine 2000; 160:1261-1268.

[6]   National Institute of Mental Health, “Co-occurrence of Depression with Stroke,” .

[7]   Everson SA, Roberts RE, Goldberg DE, Kaplan GA: “Depressive Symptoms and Increased Risk of Stroke Mortality Over a 29-Year Period,” Archives of Internal Medicine 1998; 158:1133-1138.

[8]    National Institute of Mental Health, “Co-occurrence of Depression with Cancer,” 

[9]    Lamberg L: “Treating Depression in Medical Conditions May Improve Quality of Life.” JAMA 1996; 276(Dec. 18):857-858.

[10]  Willcox M, Sattler DN:  “The Relationship Between Eating Disorders and Depression,” Journal of Social Psychology 1996; 136:269-271