Although chronic stress may seem more closely linked with anxiety, it plays a role in depression as well. At its most basic level, stress is helpful. When your mind senses danger, it triggers the release of stress hormones to help you react. When the event is over, your body's systems should return to normal.

But modern lives include psychological threats, such as marital or financial troubles, which are more chronic than immediate physical dangers. Our bodies exhibit the same stress response, but when there's no end to the stressful situation, we remain in crisis mode. We aren't equipped to deal with these prolonged, elevated levels of stress hormones, and a host of health problems—including depression—can result.

The stress hormone cortisol may play a role, since people with depression often have high levels of cortisol. Current evidence also suggests that stressful events are more likely to trigger depression in people who are genetically susceptible to the condition.

Chronically elevated stress levels can make you less likely to eat well, sleep, exercise, and engage with family and friends; deficiencies in these areas can increase your stress level, creating a vicious circle. In addition to treating your depression, your doctor may recommend relaxation techniques. Regular physical activity and social support can help, too.

Publication Review By:

Published: 20 Aug 2013

Last Modified: 20 Aug 2013