Why do we experience stress and depression?

June 4, 2024
minute read

Stress is a natural and essential part of our existence, it occurs when we encounter something we are fearful of. Our body increases its cortisol to allow us to better respond with a ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response. However in our modern world that response carries on far longer than the actual or perceived threat has gone. We therefore experience a chronic stress response, which often manifests itself as anxiety.

Depression can be caused by physiological changes in the brain or with life events, some people are more susceptible due to their genes. As we age,  biological and lifestyle changes that illness brings can also contribute to depression.

Why is experiencing some stress good for you?

Not all stress is bad, we experience ‘Eustress stress’ which occurs when we push ourselves physically or mentally and get a benefit from it.  We  also do not want to alleviate all stress as stress creates a hormone called hormesis which in low volumes makes you more resilient in the future. Studies have shown that this protein extends longevity in animals and some evidence has been found in humans too.  These stressors seem to activate our own cell repair mechanisms. 

What is the impact of stress and depression?

Stress causes inflammation which is there to help us when we encounter diseases or a threat, but constant inflammation will in the long term cause many illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and brain disorders. It can also make us age faster ​​as seen in this study and can reduce our life expectancy by nearly 3 years.

Depression can reduce our immune capability, making us more susceptible to illness and also limit daily activities we used to enjoy which can lead to reduction in exercise or social interactions.

Through a number of longitudinal studies there has been a link with depression and higher mortality rates.

Key areas that help reduce inflammation caused by stress

  1. Exercise- being active has been shown to lower our inflammation response
  2. Diet - some diets have shown to be beneficial
  3. Maintaining a healthy weight - the higher your stress response the harder it will be to lose weight and so becomes vicious cycle.

If you feel that stress or depression is becoming a uncontrollable problem in your life seek professional help from your doctor.


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