Depression & Stress: The Interlinked Risks of Two Common Mental Health Conditions

November 21, 2022

Depression & stress are two of the most common mental health conditions in the world. They often occur together, and can have a devastating impact on people's lives. In this blog post, we will explore the link between depression and stress, and discuss some of the ways that they can both be treated.

What is chronic stress?

Chronic stress refers to feelings of ongoing tension, worry, and agitation. This kind of stress tends to build up over time and can be very hard to deal with on a daily basis. Some common causes of chronic stress include long work hours, high levels of financial or relationship worries, ongoing health problems, difficult life transitions, and traumatic events.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for dealing with chronic stress, there are many strategies that can help to reduce its symptoms and alleviate its negative effects. Some simple but effective ways to manage chronic stress include:

  • relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises or guided meditations
  • regular physical activity like yoga or tai chi, social support networks like therapy groups or discussion forums
  • mindful self-care practices like spending quiet time alone or eating nutritious meals
  • healthy sleep habits like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day

With some dedication and persistence, it is possible to reduce the impact of chronic stress and improve overall quality of life.

What is a natural stress response?

The natural stress response is the body's way of dealing with a perceived threat. It's often referred to as the "fight-or-flight" response because it's the body's way of preparing to either fight or flee from danger. The stress response begins in the brain, where the hypothalamus sets off an alarm and sends signals to the body that prepare it for action. This includes releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which increase heart rate and blood pressure, and increase blood sugar levels.

The stress response can be helpful in situations where we need to be alert and ready to act, but it can also be harmful if it's constantly activated. Chronic stress because we can't resolve our stress can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and anxiety disorders. Learning how to manage stress can help reduce the risk of these physical and mental health problems.

What is depression?

Major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, is a mental health condition that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. These symptoms can interfere with your ability to perform daily activities and enjoy life. Depression is different from the occasional blues that everyone feels from time to time, and is a serious affliction on mental health.

It’s more than just a case of the “sniffles” that lasts for a few days. Depression is a serious medical condition that requires treatment by a mental health professional. With proper care, most people with depression will experience significant improvement in their symptoms.

Depressive symptoms include :

  • persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy
  • changes in appetite or weight
  • trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • physical slowing down or agitation
  • fatigue or loss of energy
  • feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions

If you have too many of these symptoms, you may be suffering from major depression. Your doctor may prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to help you deal with the issues that your depression is causing.

The problem with depression is that sometimes, without SSRIs, it will just continue indefinitely. It's a problem with your brain, like in your prefrontal cortex, that prevents it from firing properly.

What are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are a type of mental illness characterized by chronic, excessive anxiety and worry. People who suffer from anxiety disorders often experience intense fear and apprehension that can interfere with their ability to function normally on a daily basis. These disabling conditions occur due to chemical imbalances or other underlying factors in the brain, and they can affect people of all ages.

Common symptoms of anxiety disorders include rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, difficulty breathing, dizziness, muscle tension, obsessive thoughts, poor concentration, insomnia, and more. While there is no single cause of anxiety disorders, they do tend to run in families and can be triggered by environmental stressors or traumatic events.

Treatment typically involves therapy or medication to help manage symptoms and correct any underlying causes. With the right care and support, however, it is possible for those struggling with anxiety disorders to lead healthy and productive lives.

How can stress, depression, and anxiety work together?

Stress, depression, and anxiety are often spoken about as if they're three separate things. But in reality, they're often closely intertwined. Stress can lead to depression and anxiety, and depression and anxiety can cause stress. It can be a difficult cycle to break out of, but it's important to remember that you're not alone.

Millions of people struggle with stress, depression, and anxiety every day. There are plenty of resources available to help you better understand and manage these conditions. And with the right support, you can overcome anything.

The debilitating nature of these three: maladaptive reactions

All three of these conditions lead themselves to unhealthy coping mechanisms. The physical symptoms lead us to "maladaptive" stress management - like binge eating or sleep eating when we're sad. When we can control the symptoms of our life stress, we can prevent further stress AND manage to maintain our healthy diet, regular exercise, and get enough sleep.

Lucky for us, anxiety, stress, and depression are all managed easily by speaking with our doctors. We can take up talk therapy, rely on a family member or close friend as a confident, and eventually even out our stress levels.

What to do if you think you've got these issues

There are a few things you can do when you're struggling with one of these three - stress, anxiety, and/or depression. First, you can read resources from authoritative sources, like the depression association. That will give you some perspective on your stressful situation.

Second, you can reach out to family members and explain how you're struggling and ask for help. Your family members may help you work through the issues in your daily life, instead of trying to add more stress.

Finally, if you're seeing serious symptoms like unexplained weight loss, please reach out to your doctor, as your depression AND other symptoms may indicate some other, more serious disease. There's increasing evidence that our bodies will hide stress in a variety of ways, and issues with our adrenal glands or brain areas can cause serious mood disruptions.

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