I doubt it comes as much of a surprise to learn that too much stress can cause depression. Chronic stress is a form of stress that keeps us in its grip for prolonged periods of time. In its own way it’s as bad as a life of unpredictability where dramatic, sometimes traumatic and unexpected changes occur over which we have little control. Both forms of stress give our brain and body a battering. Overuse of our stress response system is the culprit and it almost certainly contributes to a host of illnesses. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, heart disease and depression are all linked.
Chronic stress often results from juggling multiple roles for too long. Coupled with lifestyle factors like low income, unstable or unhappy relationships and living in a high crime area, it’s easy to see how stress accumulates. A person under continuous stress may appear to adapt to their circumstances but they have few reserves in the tank. As soon as an additional stressful event is factored in it can be enough to trigger depression.
Psychiatrist and author, Dr. Tim Cantopher suggests stress-induced depression nearly always happens to one type of person. This person, he says, has personality characteristics that include moral strength, reliability, diligence and a strong sense of conscience and responsibility. This is the kind of person who focuses on the needs of others first. But they are also vulnerable due to their sensitivity, their vulnerability to criticism and the fact that their self-esteem depends upon the evaluation of others. They are the last person we expect to get ill because they are so reliable, trustworthy. As such, they are also often taken for granted.
Depression, at least of the stress-induced variety, can be prevented. It takes a level of awareness and it requires action. As a long-term strategy it’s important to know what maintains your mood and what the early signs of stress overload are for you. In most cases it tends to things like irritability, losing sleep and losing concentration, which leads to more mistakes. Identify the barriers to wellbeing and then focus some of your energy on alternatives. If you’re spinning too many plates it points to time management and/or additional support requirements. Use just a few of your undoubted talents and resources to support yourself – for a change.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.