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Stress And Depression

Depression is like a thick, dark fog. There are several factors that can bring it on: Negative life events such as divorce or cumulative stressors; biological changes, as is the case with post-partum depression and bipolar illness; Or by the presence of dysfunctional beliefs such as 'I'm unlovable'. Though depression has various triggers, once it is activated the symptoms are akin regardless of the cause. What is particularly insidious about depression is that when the symptoms are allowed to cycle automatically, the state can maintain itself for weeks, even months.

Depressive symptoms feed one another, and this is what prolongs the state. Consider the example of an applicant who is turned down after a job interview and comes to the following conclusions: 'I'm a loser, I'm unemployable'. These self­statements will certainly make her feel sad and guilty (emotional) which, in turn, will lead to a lethargic, listless physical state (physical), to which she might elect to spend all day in bed (behavioural), leading to insomnia that night (physical).

During the wakeful hours of darkness and silence, she has other thoughts like 'I can't do anything with my life' (cognitive) and to conjure ugly memories of past failures (cognitive). She will undoubtedly have decreased energy the next day (physical) and find it hard to concentrate (cognitive). She may elect to cancel her lunch date with her friend (behavioural) and then think thoughts like 'my whole life is falling apart' (cognitive).

This, in turn, will add anxiety to her experience (emotional) which will add restlessness to her fatigue (Physical), which may lead to the decision to cancel another scheduled job interview the following day (behavioural) and so on...

Stress and the Onset of Depression

The first stress-depression link is an obvious one. Statistically, stress and the onset of depression go together. People who are undergoing a lot of life stressors are more likely to succumb to depression and people in depression are more likely to have undergone a recent significant stressor.

Laboratory studies also link stress and the symptoms of depression. Stress a lab rat and it becomes anhedonic-specifically, the threshold for perceiving pleasure has been raised, just as in a person suffering from depression.

The body's hormonal response to stress (particularly the glucocorticoids hormones) affects the neurotransmitters and their metabolism. Specifically, glucocorticoids cause a change in the amounts of neurotransmitters synthesized, how fast it is broken down, how many receptors are there for each neurotransmitter, how well the receptors work and so on.

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