There’s a link between stress and depression but they’re not interchangeable. Long term chronic stress can increase the risk of depression, but depression is not caused by stress. Confusing? Let us clear it up a bit.
Stress is your body’s way of responding to a demand or threat. When you feel you’re under attack, your body releases adrenaline, which gives you a boost of energy to defend yourself. In everyday situations, your body doesn’t need that “flight or fight” response. You may just need a boost to get through a speech or to meet a deadline at work. Sometimes your body may not know the difference between a small stressor and a life threatening situation, so it’ll send those chemicals through you anyway, causing a spike in blood pressure and increase in the risk of heart attack or stroke. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain and a suppressed immune system, which will make you more likely to get sick.
Here are common signs of stress:
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Problems with memory and concentrating
- Change in eating habits
- Feeling nervous or anxious
- Feeling angry, irritable or easily frustrated
- Feeling burned out
Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent sadness, despair and a loss of interest in life. It affects a person’s thoughts and behaviors. If you’re depressed, you’re not simply “down in the dumps” or having a bad day. It lasts longer than a few days. It can be caused by genetics, a chemical imbalance in the brain or struggles with alcohol or drug abuse. While stress can’t be directly related to causing depressions, someone under chronic stress who hasn’t learned to cope with it can increase their risk of developing depression.
Here are common signs of depression:
- Withdrawing from other people
- Feeling sad and hopeless
- Lack of energy, enthusiasm and motivation
- Trouble making decisions
- Being restless, agitated and irritable
- Eating and sleeping more or less than usual
- Trouble with memory and concentration
- Feeling bad about yourself or feeling guilty
- Anger and rage
- Feeling that you can't overcome difficulties in your life
- Thoughts of suicide
The relationship between stress and depression is complicated. Feeling stress can lead to poor lifestyle choices such as drinking, smoking and not exercising or eating healthy foods. These can lead to chronic stress, which can lead to depression. For example, if a person begins drinking heavily because of stress, he or she may develop an addiction that can negatively affect other parts of his or her life. This could lead to depression.
If you think you’re just stressed, take time to reduce it by trying to figure out what is causing it. Your job? Family problems? Once you recognize the problem, think of ways you can work on the problem in order to reduce your stress levels. If you can tackle it in a positive and healthy way, you’ll be less likely to resort to behaviors such as overeating, drinking or taking drugs in order to manage it.
If you suspect it’s more than stress, talk to a counselor. You may be suffering from depression. Don’t be afraid to get help. It’s not a sign of weakness. Depression is a medical disorder that needs treatment.
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