Stress Depression

Stress Depression refers to a link between stress and depression. This article discusses adjustment disorders and how being depressed is often correlated with outside factors such as anxiety, situations, and stress. Keep reading for more on stress and depression.

The fact is that stress may or may not lead to depression, and a particular episode of depression may not have been caused or precipitated by stress. Nevertheless, the two often go hand-in-hand. This article explores some of what is known about links between stress and depression.

Adjustment Disorder

The various subtypes of Adjustment Disorder (DP) are precipitated by a stressor event that the person has trouble adjusting to. So in the subtypes called adjustment disorder with depressed mood and adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, a short-term depression is related to stress by definition.

Adjustment disorder refers to something more than the normal response of a person faced with a difficulty that - although very sad or difficult - is within the range of normal human experience. In adjustment disorder, the person’s response to the stress is judged to be disproportionate, given how most people react to such an event.

Examples of events that are typical stressors that may set of adjustment disorder include:

  • ending a romantic relationship
  • experiencing work or academic difficulties
  • being incarcerated or the imprisonment of someone close
  • experiencing a serious illness or the serious illness of someone close
  • being terminated from employment
  • experiencing financial difficulties
  • experiencing a disturbance in family life

Note that grief for the death of a loved one is not included.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not, itself, a type of depression, but it often coexists with depression, both of them being the result of “traumatic” stress. This is another possible relationship between stress and depression. PTSD differs from Adjustment disorder in several ways. First of all, the stressor is generally not something met in the normal course of life, but something catastrophic, such as natural or human-caused disasters, was, torture, rape, or the like. In any case, it is something that overwhelms the person who has the experience. Second, while adjustment disorder is, by definition, usually a self-contained experience, lasting no more than 6 months, there is no such expectation that PTSD and/or accompanying depression will be so short-lived.

Stress Contributes to Depression in Other Ways

Stress may also play a part in other types of depression, even those that may have appeared to stem from endogenous causes - that is, those without a specific precipitating event trigger. There’s a study that has demonstrated that episodes that had been diagnosed as endogenous depression actually followed increases in stress that were equivalent to those in patients diagnosed with non-endogenous depression - that is, cases of depression that were identified as following a particular external cause.

Some particular types of depression are often associated with stress in combination with other factors. These include postpartum depression and holiday depression. Postpartum depression seems to have a combination of risk factors including a history of depression, the stress of caring for a newborn, and stress caused by any unusually painful incidents associated with the pregnancy or delivery. The latter could include an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, illness experienced by the mother or child, and stress from difficult or sad experiences in other areas of life, such as the health and well-being of loved ones, employment and finances, etc.

Holiday depression may result from a combination of many factors including seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the stress of planning, hosting, and/or attending gatherings. Depression can also result from the stress of financial constraints or the guilt from overspending, loneliness, and unmet expectations. Weight gain from over-indulgence in holiday treats can also be a contributing factor.

Individual Differences

One thing that’s important to remember when considering stress and depression is that different people react to stress differently. The stress that might bring one person to their knees, another might handle with fewer symptoms and more resilience. There isn’t a single right way to deal with stress so as to avoid depression, and some on how our bodies deal with stress is outside our control. Most health-focused sites advocate for people who know that they will undergo stress to maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise program, as well as work on building support networks of friends. When these things aren’t enough to keep  life in balance, seeking the advice of a healthcare professional is a good idea.


Related Article: Reactive Depression >>