Stress and Depression

Carrie A. Watson
Stressed business woman

Depression and stress seldom appear at the same time; however, in certain people they appear to go hand in hand. Often, stress is the first to appear and if not properly handled, depression soon follows due to a biological process that occurs with extended periods of stress. According to a study published in Depression and Anxiety, the longer an individual is subjected to ongoing stress levels, the more likely they will be to suffer from depression.

Link Between Depression and Stress

Currently, over 14 million Americans experience some form of depression daily. Of those, only a fraction experience depression due to stress. There are numerous forms of depression, and most are easily treated. When dealing with stress-caused depression, treatments focus on managing both the depression and the stressors.

Any traumatic situation has the ability to cause stress, which may lead to depression. During a time of extended stress, an area of the brain called the hippocampus shrinks. In most cases, the brain is able to rebuild the hippocampus in a process called neurogenesis. Stress-related depression occurs when the process of neurogenesis does not take place or is slowed down. Studies have found that most cases of stress do not form into a depressive episode. Thankfully, many people effectively stabilize and reduce stress levels during traumatic experiences and consequently, it doesn't become depression.

Instead, it is the cumulative build-up of multiple stress-related traumas that ultimately leads to depression in susceptible individuals. If stress levels are not addressed, depression can set in. The predisposition for depression following extended stressful situations is an even greater threat to those who already deal with other pre-existing emotional or mental issues. These issues may include psychologically related anxiety, pessimistic tendencies, feeling upset more often than not, and being emotionally unstable.

Risk of Developing Depression With Stress

Stressed business man in office

While the number of people dealing with depression is considerable, most of those affected have depression caused by short-term depressive episodes or a form of anxiety disorder. The depressive state caused by extended exposure to stress is called Persistent Depressive Order or PDD. This form of stress-induced depression may last years and is often overlooked because it is not as severe as major depression.

Depression is one of the most common forms of mental disorders. Although depression is a common problem today, most of the reported incidents of the affliction are caused by anxiety disorders and are not directly related to an increase of prolonged stress levels. Anxiety disorders include factors that can be genetic or chemical and are easy to treat. The difference between stress and anxiety related depressions are the presence of nervousness and irritability seen with anxiety disorders that are not typically seen in stress-related depression.

While depression is the most common mental disorder observed, stress-related depression comprises a small percentage of the known cases. The focus on depression leans heavily toward those with anxiety disorders because this is the main culprit reported. Stress-related depression is a disorder that is not diagnosed as often as other forms of depression. It may be more difficult for sufferers of stress-related depression to find information that may be helpful because it is not as well known as other forms of depression.

Available Treatments

Treatments for people experiencing stress-related depression vary. It's necessary to address two factors in the treatment. The first is the depression, which doctors can treat with common anti-depressant medications. It is essential anyone taking these meds do so under the supervision of a qualified professional.

Manage Stress

Stress is the second, and perhaps most important, factor to address. Treatments are available to people dealing with stress-related depression.

  • Ideally, eliminate the issues causing stress. However, in many cases this isn't plausible. Day-to-day stressful experiences often cause accumulated stress you must manage daily. If you can't remove stress-causing factors, you may require a different approach in order to lessen the effect of stress.
  • Establish daily stress-relieving habits, such as a daily meditation, yoga, or listening to soothing music.
  • Make sure you get enough water and eat fresh, healthy food, which can do wonders for stress levels.
  • A recent study shows replacing butter and oils with virgin coconut oil may also help to diminish stress levels.

Using some or all these suggestions to relieve accumulated stress will also reduce the associated depressive tendencies.

Where to Go for Help

The first step in getting help is to recognize there is a problem. Once you have established this, find a qualified professional.

  • All forms of depression can alter daily life and affect your overall well-being. You will find helpful information via the Anxiety and Depression Association of America or ADAA. It's a good place to start learning about the disorder if you experience anxiety and depression.
  • For further information on how to reduce stress levels successfully, there are numerous self-help books that teach methods to improve the situation as much as possible. Stress related book ideas can also be found at the Goodreads website. Two books that may be helpful are the Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook and The Stress-Proof Brain.
  • There are even more involved programs created to advance the individual through exercises that will improve daily stress levels. Many of these systems use a treatment called Biofeedback to help the body deal with daily stress. Many biofeedback programs require a professional practitioner to receive proper results although there are now some programs that are available to use independently. Personal programs are usually much simpler in function and use. To utilize a simple stress reduction program, this biofeedback stress card will do the trick.

Coping With Anxiety, Depression, and Stress

While many assume anxiety is the main factor in depression, in some cases accumulated stress is the culprit. People often overlook stress as a cause of depression since it is less common. Since so few people deal with stress-related depression, it often goes unrecognized and untreated. Treating excessive stress levels while working alongside medical treatments to alleviate symptoms allows people suffering from stress-related depression to have a normal lifestyle. While stress-related depression is not as well-known as other forms of depression, help is available for those who need it.

Stress and Depression