Whether it’s a traffic jam on the way to work, an important job interview, or the death of a loved one, everyone experiences varying degrees of stress from time to time. In small doses, stress can be beneficial. It can motivate you to reach your goals and help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. Stress is key for human survival, but too much stress can be detrimental to your health.
Whether it’s a traffic jam on the way to work, an important job interview, or the death of a loved one, everyone experiences varying degrees of stress from time to time. In small doses, stress can be beneficial. It can motivate you to reach your goals and help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. Stress is key for human survival, but too much stress can be detrimental to your health. When you feel stressed for weeks or months on end, stress can make it difficult to concentrate, disrupt your sleep, and make you feel like you can’t overcome challenges in your life. At times, you may feel burned out, or perhaps even depressed. While stress and depression share some similarities, depression is a more serious and long-lasting condition that requires a different kind of treatment.
Common signs of stress
Stress is a normal part of life. A little bit of stress is beneficial and motivating, but too much stress can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, and even heart disease. There are some key ways your body lets you know when you’re experiencing too much stress. Some of the warning signs include:
Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
Trouble falling asleep or staying awake
A change in eating habits
Feeling angry or irritable
Having trouble functioning at work
Getting sick often
Headaches and body aches
Common signs of depression
Depression is a mental health condition that interferes with a person’s ability to carry out daily functions. It’s characterized by feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in once enjoyable activities. A depression diagnosis is typically given once a person experiences a depressed mood and a majority of the following symptoms for at least two weeks.
Feeling sad and hopeless
Withdrawing from other people
Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
Anger and rage
Eating more or less than usual
Sleeping more or less than usual
Lack of energy and motivation
Feeling restless, agitated, and irritable
Feeling bad about yourself or feeling guilty
What is the difference between stress and depression?
Stress is not a mental health condition. It tends to have an obvious trigger, like a move, divorce, or illness. Stress typically resolves as life events change. However, stress can lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression if it persists over long periods without relief.
Depression is a mental health condition that requires a medical diagnosis. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 17.3 million American adults experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017. While stress is related to life events, depression can happen even if everything in life seems fine – and it can last for years.
How to deal with stress and depression
If you feel stressed to the point where it’s interfering with your ability to perform at work and function in your relationships, there are things you can do to bring your stress down to a healthy level.
Exercise – Physical activity releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the brain. Endorphins also improve your ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
Laugh – Getting together with good friends and laughing can reduce stress. Laughter decreases stress hormones and releases endorphins to promote an overall sense of wellbeing.
Learn something new – Setting a goal of learning a new language or hobby helps build confidence, which can help you deal with stress.
Avoid alcohol and drugs – Many people use alcohol or drugs to find temporary relief from stress. But, in the long term, they’ll only make your problems worse.
Volunteer – Helping others in need through volunteering or community work can help put your problems in perspective. The more you give, the less stressed you’ll feel.
Use breathing exercises – Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to the brain and triggers the body’s relaxation response, which promotes a state of calmness.
Meditate – Meditation allows you to focus your thoughts and calm the stream of jumbled worries clouding your mind and causing stress. If you’re a beginner, there are many apps that offer guided meditations.
Taking steps to manage your stress on your own can help prevent depression. However, if you’ve tried self-help techniques and they aren’t working, or if you have felt sad, withdrawn, overwhelmed, or suicidal for two weeks or longer, help is available.
Depression treatment at Alvarado Parkway Institute
Depression can make it extremely difficult to get through the day. At times, it may feel like there’s nowhere left to turn. At Alvarado Parkway Institute, we help individuals struggling with the symptoms of stress and depression minimize their symptoms so they can enjoy life again. Our customized depression treatment programs include a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, medication management, and education to help each patient achieve their goals and return to a happy, healthy life. Call us today at (619) 485-1432 to speak with our compassionate staff and learn more about how we can help.
Everyone can feel sad or overwhelmed at times. But depression is a chronic feeling of emptiness, sadness, or inability to feel pleasure that may appear to happen for no clear reason. It is distinct from grief and other emotions a person may feel following difficult life events.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
It can undermine a person’s relationships, make working and maintaining good health very difficult, and in severe cases, may lead to suicide. In fact, depression contributes to nearly 40,000 suicides in the United States each year.
It can affect adults, adolescents, and children. This article examines what depression is and what causes it, as well as types of depression, treatment, and more.
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What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, and loss of joy. It is different from the mood fluctuations that people regularly experience as a part of life.
Major life events, such as bereavement or the loss of a job, can trigger depression. But depression is distinct from the negative feelings a person may temporarily have in response to a difficult life event.
Depression often persists in spite of a change of circumstances and causes feelings that are intense, chronic, and not proportional to a person’s circumstances.
It is an ongoing problem, not a passing one. While there are different types of depression, the most common one is major depressive disorder. It consists of episodes during which the symptoms last for at least two weeks.
Depression can last for several weeks, months, or years. For many people, it is a chronic illness that gets better and then relapses.
Is it curable?
While there is no cure for depression, there are effective treatments that help with recovery. The earlier that treatment starts, the more successful it may be. Some people may never experience depression again after a single period of it. Others will continue to have relapses.
Many people experiencing depression recover after a treatment plan. Even with effective treatment, however, a relapse may occur. About half of people do not initially respond to treatment.
To prevent relapse, people who take medication for depression should continue with treatment — even after symptoms improve or go away — for as long as their doctor advises.
Find tips to help prevent depression from returning here.
Signs and symptoms
Depression can cause a range of psychological and physical symptoms, including:
- persistent depressed mood
- loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- changes in appetite and body weight
slow or agitated movements
decreased energy or fatigue
- difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
If a person experiences five or more of these symptoms during the same 2-week period, a doctor may diagnose them with depression.
Depression may also cause other symptoms, including irritability, restlessness, chronic pain, headaches, and digestive issues.
Types of depression
There are several forms of depression. Below are some of the most common types.
A person living with major depression experiences a constant state of sadness. They may lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.
Treatment usually involves medication and psychotherapy.
Persistent depressive disorder
Also known as dysthymia, persistent depressive disorder causes symptoms that last for at least 2 years.
A person living with this disorder may have episodes of major depression as well as milder symptoms that do not meet the criteria for major depressive disorder.
After giving birth, some people experience a brief period of sadness or heightened emotions that some people call the “baby blues.” This usually goes away in a few days to a few weeks.
Postpartum depression, or postnatal depression, is more severe.
There is no single cause for this type of depression, and it can persist for months or years. Anyone who experiences ongoing depression after delivery should seek medical attention.
Major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern
Previously known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this type of depression usually occurs during the winter and fall months, when there is less daylight. Less commonly, it may follow other seasonal patterns.
It lifts during the rest of the year and in response to light therapy.
This condition seems to particularly affect people who live in countries with long or severe winters.
Triggers are emotional, psychological, or physical events or circumstances that can cause depression symptoms to appear or return.
These are some of the most common triggers:
- stressful life events, such as loss, family conflicts, and changes in relationships
- incomplete recovery after having stopped depression treatment too soon
- medical conditions, especially a medical crisis such as a new diagnosis or a chronic illness such as heart disease or diabetes
Find out more about depression triggers here.
Some people have a higher risk of depression than others.
Risk factors include:
- experiencing certain life events, such as bereavement, work issues, changes in relationships, financial problems, and medical concerns
- experiencing acute stress
- having a lack of successful coping strategies
- having a close relative with depression
- using some prescription drugs, such as corticosteroids, certain beta-blockers, and interferon
- using recreational drugs, such as alcohol or amphetamines
- having sustained a head injury
- having a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s
- having had a previous episode of major depression
- having a chronic condition, such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or cardiovascular disease
- living with chronic pain
- lacking social support
Depression as a symptom
Depression can also occur as a symptom or comorbidity with another mental health condition. Examples include:
Psychosis can involve delusions, such as false beliefs and a detachment from reality. It can also involve hallucinations — sensing things that do not exist.
Some people experience depression with psychosis. A person living with psychosis, which is a serious psychiatric illness, may experience depression as a result.
Alternatively, a person living with depression may have a severe form of the condition that also includes psychosis symptoms.
Depression is a common symptom of bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of depression that may last weeks. They also experience periods of mania, which is an elevated mood that may cause a person to feel very happy, aggressive, or out of control.
What does bipolar disorder involve, and what types are there? Find out here.
If a person suspects that they have symptoms of depression, they should seek professional help from a doctor or mental health specialist.
A qualified health professional can rule out various causes, ensure an accurate diagnosis, and provide safe and effective treatment.
They will ask questions about symptoms, such as how long they have been present. A doctor may also conduct an examination to check for physical causes and order a blood test to rule out other health conditions.
What is the difference between situational and clinical depression? Find out here.
Mental health professionals often ask people to complete questionnaires to help assess the severity of their depression.
The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, for example, has 21 questions. The scores indicate the severity of depression among people who already have a diagnosis.
The Beck Depression Inventory is another questionnaire that helps mental health professionals measure a person’s symptoms.
National hotlines provide free, confidential assistance from trained professionals 24 hours a day. They may benefit anyone with depression who wants or needs to talk about their feelings.
Some of the support hotlines available include:
- Samaritans: This nonprofit organization offers emotional support to anyone who has feelings of depression or loneliness or who is considering suicide. Call or text 877-870-4673 (HOPE).
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273- 8255 (TALK) to speak with someone from this national network of local crisis centers.
- Lifeline Chat: This is an online chat service of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- Postpartum Support International: Call 1-800-944-4773. This organization helps people struggling with postpartum depression, as well as other mental health issues that are related to pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
Click here for more links and local resources.
Is depression genetic?
A person with a parent or sibling who has depression is about three times more likely than other people to develop the condition.
However, many people with depression have no family history of it.
A recent study suggests that susceptibility to depression may not result from genetic variation. The researchers acknowledge that while people can inherit depression, many other issues also influence its development.
Learn more about whether depression has a genetic link here.
Is it a disability?
Depression is the leading cause of disability around the world, according to the WHO.
In the U.S., the Social Security Administration considers depressive, bipolar, and related disorders to be disabilities. If a person’s depression prevents them from working, they may qualify for social security disability insurance benefits.
The person must have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify for disability benefits. For more information, visit the administration’s website.
According to the CDC, about 11% of physician office visits note depression on the medical record. The figure is similar for emergency department visits.
Also according to the CDC, 4.4% of children and adolescents between the ages of 3 and 17 years — about 2.7 million people in the U.S. — have a diagnosis of depression.
The CDC also note that 4.7% of American adults have regular feelings of depression.
Frequently asked questions
Here are some common questions about depression.
What does depression do to the brain?
Depression can lead to changes in levels of neurotransmitters, which are molecules that transmit messages between nerve cells. In the long run, it may also cause physical changes to the brain, including reductions in grey matter volume and increased inflammation.
Does depression change your personality?
Research has turned up mixed results about whether or not depression can actually change a person’s personality.
However, according to one review of 10 studies, depressive symptoms may be associated with changes in several specific aspects of personality — including extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness — which could be temporary or persistent.
Does depression affect your thinking?
Depression can alter concentration and decision-making. It may also impair attention and cause issues with information processing and memory.
Depression is a serious, chronic medical condition that can affect every aspect of a person’s life. When it causes suicidal thoughts, it can be fatal.
People cannot think their way out of depression. Depression is not a personal failing or a sign of weakness. It is treatable, and seeking treatment early may increase the chances of recovery.
Because depression can be challenging to treat, it is important for a person to see a doctor with expertise in depression and to be willing to try several different treatments. Often, a combination of therapy and medication offers the best results.
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