Can Stress Cause Depression?

By: Jon Jaehnig

Updated August 28, 2020

When we think of people who are depressed, most of us think of someone who has just been through something sad, like the loss of a loved one or being fired from a job.

Sometimes, however, people can get depressed without going through a recognizable tragedy like those mentioned earlier. Sometimes people seem to get depressed just by going through their day-to-day lives. In fact, there are quite a few things that can cause depression, and it may be more common than you realize.

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So, can stress cause depression, or is there some other explanation? Why do some of us suffer depression when others don't? How do you tell if you are depressed, and what do you do about it? In this article, we'll address all of these questions and more.

What Is Depression?

Before we talk about stress and other causes of depression, we should spend a moment talking about what depression is.

Some people say that they're feeling depressed when they're just sad. It's normal and healthy to feel sad sometimes, but that's not the same as being depressed. Depression is characterized by extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or apathy that lasts for at least two weeks. These feelings may be so severe that they are unable to maintain their commitments, keep healthy relationships, or even take care of themselves and may no longer enjoy things that once interested them.

Understanding depression doesn't mean that it's up to you to decide when someone has depression. If someone tells you that they're feeling depressed, support them, and make sure that they know where they can get help if they need it.

If you feel like you might be depressed, bring it up with your healthcare provider even if its only been a couple of days. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your doctor can help he or she to determine when depression crosses the line from healthy human response to a dangerous emotional health problem.

Especially if something traumatic has happened to you, don't feel like you need to wait to be taken seriously.

Chemical Causes Of Depression

Depression can be caused by several things, including traumatic life events.

However, sometimes, stress seems to come on for no easily identifiable reason. Some people experience depression as the seasons change or just out of nowhere.

That's because depression in some people can be caused or aggravated by imbalances of chemicals in the brain that your body uses to communicate between different systems. This explains why some people seem to get depression out of nowhere and why two people can go through similar life events, and only one of them get depression. It also means that depression can run in families. If someone in your family has or has had depression, or doesn't mean that you definitely will get it, but you should tell your primary care provider just in case - even if you don't have symptoms.

Other people have symptoms of depression due to another kind of chemical problem. Your body makes chemicals with the help of the sun so in people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or "SAD," symptoms of depression can be the result of changing seasons. If your depression seems to come and go at around the same times every year, consider talking to your primary care provider about SAD.

Because chemical imbalances do not always cause depression, you can still get depression without having a family history or without it being related to seasonal changes.


Emotional Causes Of Depression

As we've mentioned above, major life events like the death of a loved one or the loss of a job can cause depression in some people. However, sometimes seemingly less traumatic events like moving to a new town, changing jobs, or starting at a new school can also cause depression.

Depression caused by these things doesn't always require professional or medical intervention. Sometimes, it just takes time for your mind and body to adjust to the new situation. If you haven't adjusted in a few weeks or if your symptoms of depression are severe - especially if they include thoughts of self-harm or suicide - talk to your primary care provider right away. It doesn't mean that you're a week. It may mean that you had a biological predisposition to depression. And, even if you didn't, different people process different things differently, and there's no shame in looking for help.

How Stress Can Cause Of Depression

If you feel like you may be depressed but haven't gone through a major life change like one of those described above, you may still have depression.

As mentioned above, one of the symptoms of depression is feelings of hopelessness, but that doesn't mean that depression has to come first. If you are working hard every day but don't see any sign of a promotion or raise in your future, you may feel hopeless. If you are trying to pay down your debts, but they only seem to be going up, you may feel hopeless. When you try to wrap your head around a new lesson or problem, but you just can't crack it, you may feel hopeless.

If this goes on for long enough, your feelings of hopelessness can cause depression instead of depression, causing feelings of hopelessness.

Other Ways That Stress Can Cause Depression

Humans are social animals, and we're more likely to experience depression when we don't have strong social bonds. As a result, any stress that wears away at our social bonds can contribute to depression.

That is part of the reason that other mental health issues can cause depression. It may seem unfair, but it's true. It's called a comorbid condition or a co-occurring condition. Conditions that have high comorbidity with depression include anxiety, autism, and alcoholism.

Anxiety and autism can contribute to depression because they can make it harder for the individual to feel connected with those around them. Further, imbalances of a chemical messenger in the brain called serotonin can cause both anxiety and depression.

Alcoholism can disrupt our social bonds as well but, as is something of a theme here, there is a chemical explanation as well. The positive feelings that some people associate with alcohol are the result of alcohol mimicking naturally occurring feel-good chemicals in the brain. Over time, alcohol abuse can prevent the receptors for these chemicals from working correctly, making it increasingly difficult to feel good - with or without alcohol. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many people drink more when they are stressed or drink as a way of self-medicating for symptoms of anxiety. In this way, stress and Alcohol can create a vicious cycle that can eventually lead to depression. If you think that you might have a problem with alcohol, your doctor can help guide you to resources that can help you drink less and manage stress in healthier ways.

Getting Help with Stress and Depression

If you are diagnosed with depression and or anxiety, your doctor can prescribe you medications that can help you to manage symptoms of both conditions - or reduce the likelihood of your developing the other condition.

Your doctor may also recommend talk therapy. Depending on your case, your opinions, and your ability to pay, you may skip talk therapy as part of your treatment, use talk therapy in addition to medication, or use talk therapy without using medication. All are valid options, but people who use talk therapy with medication often have the best results.

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The best thing about talk therapy is that you don't need a diagnosis to have access to it. Many people find that talk therapy helps them even if they don't have concerns about their mental or emotional health. You can look at a therapist or counselor the way that you look at your regular doctor - you don't only go to your doctor when you aren't healthy, you go to your doctor to stay healthy. Everyone has stress, but you don't need to wait for it to impact your health before you learn to manage it negatively.

Seeing a counselor or therapist might be covered by your health insurance plan, especially if you have a diagnosed mental or emotional health problem. If your health insurance plan doesn't cover counseling or therapy, it can be expensive. In this case, your doctor may be able to direct you toward free resources based in the community, like support groups.

If your community doesn't have services like that or you just prefer to talk with a counselor or therapist privately, you still have options. Meeting with a counselor or therapist online is cheaper than meeting one in person and is easier to fit into a busy schedule. That's especially true if you live in an area where there aren't a lot of options in terms of mental and emotional health professionals.

For more information about how you can benefit from meeting with a counselor or therapist over the internet, visit


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