How Stress and Depression Impacts your Body

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Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the world, it is something that millions of people experience every single day.

Other than feeling down, or sad, most people do not really understand what depression is, I mean think about it, what is depression really?

How can you understand depression in a way that's helpful and will help give you guidance in how to handle depression and what you can do about it?

Depression is a complex emotional disorder that impacts mental and physical health at nearly every single level; brain chemicals, physical exhaustion, mood (obviously), and so much more.

Today we're going to break down what depression is so you can better understand depression which will help you find a solution that works best for you, both in the short term and the long term.

We'll take a look at some of the more common causes of depression as well as how it is able to so easily hijack your brain and the effects it has on your body.

But, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's just begin with some of the most common causes.


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Causes of Depression

To understand depression it can be helpful to understand the varied causes of depression; that way once you understand how we got here it may give you a clue as to how you can change your current circumstances to get yourself out of a depressed state.

Depression is complex and its causes can be just as complicated; ranging from the loss of personal identity and belonging to major life transitions.

What most of them have in common is a disconnection from personal meaning and a sense of self.

Let's take the loss of personal identity as an example; many young adults experience this when they go away to college.

Teens finally get a sense of who they are by their senior year in high school just to completely start over in a new place at the very bottom of the food chain, again.

Not only is that a loss of personal identity and belonging, but it's also a major life transition- new surroundings, new communities, new responsibilities, less of a structured support system, and on and on.

Sounds pretty stressful right?

Well, it is, and that brings us to THE common underlying factor, Stress!

Stress is at the bottom of every cause of depression you can think of- identity, loneliness, loss of a loved one, transitioning to college, getting fired or hired at a new job, all of them!

But what about stress is so important that it plays a role in all causes of depression?

Well, to understand depression, we better understand the role of stress.



Stress and Depression

Stress plays a key factor in depression.

To understand depression in light of stress we're going to explore the impact stress has on the brain.

First of all, being under stress frequently and for extended periods causes inflammation.

With inflammation comes inflammatory cytokines.

Those cytokines disrupt 3 vital systems that directly impact depression: Dopamine, Serotonin, and Epinephrine.

These systems are responsible (basically) for motivation and drive, emotional regulation, and energy respectively.

Our genetics predispose us to a degree of resiliency against stress.

Meaning that some people can naturally handle stress more effectively than others.

This doesn't guarantee that some people are going to be depressed it just means there's a higher chance.

For instance, whereas some people may be able to handle 3-4 major stressful periods, others may only be able to handle 1-2 before falling into depression.

Those major stressful periods could be life transitions, the loss of a loved one, a crisis of self, work, school, etc.

So, now you understand depression via stress, how does it relate to the body?

Depression and the Body

To understand depression as a whole, we can't ignore the impact it has on the body.

Remember those 3 systems from above?

Dopamine, Serotonin, and Epinephrine.

Well when those are all functioning properly, we naturally want to experience new things, meet new people, and have the energy to go explore the world and interact with others.

But when depression hits and those systems aren't working, our bodies feel heavy, slow, and stagnant.

The loss of energy and motivation keeps us in place and restricts any desire to connect to others.

I mean this literally, it makes us stay in bed and avoid workouts and exercise; it stops us from going to the store for groceries or the coffee shop to meet friends.

This lack of physical movement makes depression worse.

But this is good news.

Because that means that movement, physical movement, improves depression.

This is why social meetings and physical exercise are so important when battling depression.

Even correcting physical posture, such as sitting up straight and walking with your head up directly impacts your mood.

This is hugely important when trying to understand depression.

It means you have direct control over how sad or happy you feel simply by moving your body.

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Conclusion

You now understand depression more than the vast majority of people on the planet, including those who are in counseling.

You now know that depression is a complex mood disorder that can be triggered by a lot of different things and its causes are complex, but underpinning all of those different triggers is stress.

You now understand how stress impacts the three main neurotransmitters, Dopamine, Serotonin, and Epinephrine in the brain and you understand how those impact the body as well as how they impact your mood.

This is why diet and exercise are vital to battling depression.

If you are getting adequate nutrition through nutrient-dense foods then that allows your brain and body to function as it should by reducing unnecessary inflammation.

Exercise also helps decrease inflammation while also increasing your ability to tolerate stress, making you more resilient to depression.

Our mind and body are intricately intertwined and when we don't feel one properly, the other starts to malfunction.

Fuel your life with proper nutrition, movement, and thoughts and you can change your whole life.

Give it a shot, and see what an incredible difference it can make.

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April 18th, 2024

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