Sometimes, there is no way to avoid stress and it becomes a part of our lives. Stress can have negative effects on the body and lead to heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure (hypertension), and also depression.
Common signs and symptoms of stress include fast heartbeat, exhaustion, weight gain or weight loss, difficulty concentrating, increased anger or frustration, chest pains, frequent colds or infections, pain in the neck or back, loss of focus, and feeling overwhelmed.
The Stress-Depression Connection Stress -- whether chronic, such as taking care of a parent with Alzheimer's, or acute, such as losing a job or the death of a loved one -- can lead to major depression in susceptible people. Both types of stress lead to over activity of the body's stress-response mechanism. Sustained or chronic stress, in particular, leads to elevated hormones such as cortisol, the "stress hormone," and reduced serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, which has been linked to depression. When these chemical systems are working normally, they regulate biological processes like sleep, appetite, energy, and sex drive, and permit expression of normal moods and emotions. When the stress response fails to shut off and reset after a difficult situation has passed, it can lead to depression in susceptible people. No one in life escapes event-related stress, such as death of a loved one, a job loss, divorce, a natural disaster such as an earthquake, or even a dramatic dip in your 401(k). A layoff -- an acute stressor -- may lead to chronic stress if a job search is prolonged. Loss of any type is a major risk factor for depression. Grieving is considered a normal, healthy, response to loss, but if it goes on for too long it can trigger a depression. A serious illness, including depression itself, is considered a chronic stressor. The connection between stress and depression is complex and circular. People who are stressed often neglect healthy lifestyle practices. They may smoke, drink more than normal, and neglect regular exercise. "Stress, or being stressed out, leads to behaviors and patterns that in turn can lead to a chronic stress burden and increase the risk of major depression," says Bruce McEwen, PhD, author of The End of Stress as We Know It. Losing a job is not only a blow to self-esteem, but it results in the loss of social contacts that can buffer against depression. Interestingly, many of the changes in the brain during an episode of depression resemble the effects of severe, prolonged, stress.