June 24, 2017

Stress and Depression – The Connection No One Talks About

We all have stress in our lives in various forms.  Some of it is considered normal stress and is good because it helps us achieve but too much stress can lead to major depression as well as other negative health effects such as heart attack and cancer.  Stress induced depression can become overwhelming and may interfere with your enjoyment of life and disrupt how you function.   How much stress and anxiety due to that stress is too much depends on the individual person but there are certain events that are known to lead to stress and depression in some people.

Life Stress Events

Stress affects both men and women and effects people of every age including children, adolescents, adults and seniors.  There are certain life events that can temporarily overwhelm even the most stable person.

These are usually negative life events such as:

 

  • Death of a loved one – loss of a close family member or friend
  • Losing a job
  • Caregiver responsibilities – such as assuming care of friends and family who are ill for an extended period of time
  • Unexpected extreme calamity or problem – such as major car accident
  • Life changes – such as  moving after a foreclosure

But they can also be positive life events such as:

 

  • Life changes – such as new job or getting married
  • Moving – when the move is wanted
  • Pregnancy

Some people handle this kind of stress without it leading to depression or more serious issues but other people suffer from stress overload and become more susceptible to major depression as a result of their experience.

Chronic stress occurs when the feelings of stress last over prolonged period.   For example, being a caregiver for months or years, a job search that takes a long time, etc.  Chronic stress also can trigger major depression.

It is reported that  a stressful event serves as the trigger for approximately 90% of all depression.

Who is Most Likely to Suffer from Stress Triggered Depression

While it’s impossible to tell who will suffer from depression triggered by stress, there are certain risk factors that make a person more susceptible than others.

These risk factors include but are not limited to:

 

  • Genetics – family history of depression
  • Lack of adequate coping skills
  • Lack of support from family and friends
  • Smoking
  • Lifestyle that includes non healthy eating and lack of exercise

Adjustment Disorder or Depression?

There is a disorder that sometimes occurs in susceptible people about 3 months after negative life event such as the death of a loved one.  It is called adjustment disorder.    This usually involves a much stronger reaction to the event than one would usually expect.

For example, after the death of a loved one it is natural to grieve, cry and feel sad.  If a person seems to handle the death well for the first few months or as well as can be expected but instead of getting ‘better’ and coping with the loss over time, the feelings of sadness and grief become even more intense and manifest themselves through symptoms such as:

 

  • Depressed state
  • Agitation
  • Trembling
  • Physical Complaints

Then the person may be suffering from adjustment disorder.   This disorder usually goes away within 6 months.

Depression on the other hand is much more than just feeling blue or sad.  Depression symptoms include but are not limited to:

 

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Inability to concentrate, memory issues
  • Sleep issues  – either insomnia or sleeping more than normal
  • No or reduced enjoyment in activities that normally bring pleasure
  • Feeling constant fatigue
  • Thoughts of suicide

If you have any of these symptoms of depression for more than two weeks it is important that you seek help immediately from your doctor or medical health care provider.

Do NOT self diagnose and assume it’s adjustment disorder and not depression.  The risks of being wrong are too great.  Contact your medical health care provider immediately for help.  There is treatment available that can help you.  There is no substitute for a proper diagnosis.  Without treatment, depression  – especially major depression which is often triggered by stress – can lead to dire consequences.   You deserve to feel better and getting help is the first step.

Stress and Depression Treatment

Once your doctor determines that you do have stress and depression, he will most likely prescribe one of these common treatments or a combination.   Your course of treatment will reflect your individual circumstance, depression severity and type of depression.

The Two Most Common Depression Treatments are:

 

  • Anti-depressants – these can help to alleviate your feelings of stress and help lift your mood
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – either one on one or with a support group – this type of therapy will provide information and techniques that will help with the management of your depression.

If you suffer from stress induced depression it is also likely that you will also be told to take care of yourself through exercise, healthy eating, and abstaining from drugs , smoking and alcohol as those are all known to help relieve stress.

Just as your stress isn’t the same as anyone else so too your treatment may also be different.

 

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