The Link Between Stress and Depression

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link stress and depression

Stress is not only commonplace in our daily lives; it’s normal. However, the degree of stress that we experience and its sustained nature can trigger depression in some individuals.

Chronic stress, in particular, has links to mental health disturbances like depression. However, it can often be challenging to determine when stress has crossed the line and become a mental health problem since so many of the symptoms of the two conditions can overlap.

Here, we’ll explore the link between stress and depression and provide tips for effectively managing both.

What Is Stress?

Stress describes a set of reactions when the brain and body are subject to pressures, demands, or even dangerous situations. While stress is a term most often used with negative connotations, it’s actually a useful response in many cases as it triggers us to become more alert and motivated.

When placed under stress, the brain releases hormones that surge all over the body. These hormones trigger our “fight or flight” response. The stress forces us to contend with the situation or flee from it depending on circumstances.

Often, situations require a more intense focus, and stress can compel us to provide the appropriate response to many situations that are challenging or downright unsafe.

What Are Common Signs and Symptoms of Stress?

Stress can manifest itself in our lives in different ways. That’s why its signs and symptoms can vary from person to person.

An individual might experience more physical signs of stress, while another might experience more mental discomfort. These symptoms may range between mild and severe.

The psychological symptoms of stress may include:

  • Memory difficulties
  • Trouble concentrating, thinking or maintaining focus
  • Constant worry
  • Reduced self-confidence
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Increased irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling unhappy
  • Finding it difficult to relax

Physiological symptoms of stress may include:

  • Headache
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Stomach upset
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Muscle tension or discomfort
  • Fatigue/lack of energy

What Are the Behavioral Signs and Symptoms of Stress?

Stress doesn’t only affect our brains and bodies. It can also impact our behaviors. The impact can be harmful unless we can identify the stress and manage to cope with it in healthy ways.

The negatives signs and symptoms of stress can include:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family (social withdrawal)
  • Eating more or eating less
  • Exhibiting changes in sleep patterns
  • Increases in nervous habits like nail biting or teeth grinding
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home or work
  • Not performing tasks as well as before
  • Declining productivity
  • Increasing the use of cigarettes, caffeine, alcohol, or even drugs

The behavioral aspects of stress, mainly when they manifest as negative behaviors, can actually cause more stress.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mental health condition that also negatively affects how someone feels, thinks, and acts. In a given year, as many as 16 million people are likely to experience major depression. Depression may have both known and unknown triggers.

Experiencing loss and grief can lead to depression. However, this mood disorder can also be caused by chronic stress.

When someone is depressed, they feel less interest in doing things they may have formerly enjoyed. They may also feel sad and hopeless; these feelings can persist and even worsen over time if the condition remains unaddressed or left untreated.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression?

There are many signs and symptoms associated with depression, and many are also associated with chronic stress.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Feeling sad or blue for an extended period of time
  • Losing interest in activities once enjoyed (i.e. reading, watching television)
  • Finding it difficult to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Experiencing changes in appetite (i.e. eating more than usual or eating too little)
  • Loss of energy / increased feeling of fatigue
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Having trouble thinking, focusing, or making decisions
  • Experiencing thoughts of death
  • Considering suicide

As you can see, several of the symptoms between stress and depression are related. In fact, some people may not be aware of whether they are suffering from stress or depression.

What Is the Link Between Stress and Depression?

Stress, especially chronic stress, causes the body’s stress-response mechanism to work overtime. As the body responds, hormones like cortisol flood the body and may remain at elevated amounts.

On the other hand, stress can lead to a decrease in other hormones like serotonin and dopamine associated with mood regulation. Low dopamine and serotonin levels are associated with depression.

Moreover, these hormones are also involved in regulating other activities in our lives like sleeping, sex drive, eating, and more. When they become unbalanced, we are likely to experience changes in our feelings and behaviors.

After a time of the stress response failing to “shut off,” the negative feelings can pave the way to the development of depression.

Stress Management

Whether you are aware that you are vulnerable to depression or note that you’re under increasing stress, you’ll want to manage stress as effectively as possible.

By managing your chronic stress well, you may be able to keep depression at bay. It’s when chronic stress is ignored and left unmanaged that it can lead to depression.

There are many ways to cope with stress in healthy habits that can enhance physical and mental health. To cope with stress better and reduce the risk for depression, consider increasing your daily activities.

Activities to cope with stress include:

  • Exercise (i.e., walking, running, swimming, biking, aerobics, etc.)
  • Reading
  • Listening to music
  • Yoga classes
  • Talk to a therapist

Remember that chronic stress can also cause physical health problems such as heart disease. It’s essential to manage stress effectively so that it doesn’t lead to more pressing health concerns, including the development of mental illnesses like depression or anxiety.

Managing Depression and Stress with NeuroStar TMS Therapy

If you have been diagnosed with depression, it’s also essential to manage this condition effectively so that symptoms improve and the depression doesn’t worsen.

If you find that medications are ineffective for treating your depression, you may be the ideal candidate for TMS therapy.

Pelorus TMS specializes in transcranial magnetic stimulation for the treatment of depression. With improved management of stress and depression, you may be able to reduce their adverse effects and experience greater well-being.