Mental Health Impacts
We’ve all experienced stress and depressive symptoms in our lives. And we often discount them as nothing more than some bad feelings that go away after a while. However, both stress and depression are deeply rooted issues that can wreak havoc on both your physical and mental health.
Let’s take a deeper look:
What is Stress and How Does It Impacts Us
Stress is a biological reaction of the body to external threats. We can put it in one of two categories:
• Acute stress - the ‘normal’ type of stress that we feel for a short period of time. For example, if a bear were chasing you, your body would secrete the ‘fight or flight’ hormones: epinephrine and norepinephrine along with cortisol. These hormones increase your blood pressure, alertness, focus and provide a surge of energy.
Once the external threat goes away (in this case, the bear), these hormones go back to baseline, and you’re feeling normal again.
As you can probably guess, this is the good type of stress, and it has helped us survive as a species.
• Chronic stress - the bad type of stress that we feel for extended periods of time. For example, if you were having family and finance problems, you would have chronically elevated levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. This would lead to sleeplessness, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, and an increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Chronic stress can even lead to depression (which we’ll cover next).
So what’s the bottom line here? Acute rises in certain hormones can be beneficial for us. However, when the same hormones are chronically elevated, health problems develop and we need to do everything we can to manage chronic stress.
What is Depression and How Does It Impacts Us
Many people discount depression and compare it to a case of bad mood that we can shake off and get on with our lives. However, depression is a brain disorder that can have devastating mental and physical consequences.
In fact, depression has been linked to a wide array of physical disorders ranging from cardiovascular diseases, impaired immunity, digestive problems, and more (, , ).
And it doesn’t stop there. Not only can depression cause certain health problems, but it can also exacerbate pre-existing ones.
For example, due to its effect on the brain and neurotransmitters (such as serotonin), depression can decrease your pain threshold, making you more susceptible to it. And if you have pre-existing injuries and chronic pain-points, they can become much more noticeable.
Serotonin is also responsible for sleep quality and libido. Meaning, depression can cause sleeplessness, depression, and decrease your interest in sex.
Aside from that, depression can also lead to chronic fatigue, decreased appetite, oversleeping, and general lack of motivation to do anything.
And as a byproduct of these negative effects, we also become more stressed out which itself leads to a wide array of problems.
A Vicious Cycle
Stress and depression lead to poor sleep → this weakens our immunity → we become more susceptible to numerous diseases (including pre-existing conditions) → we become even more stressed out and depressed.
The cycle continues.
Stress and depression lead to social isolation → we hide from anyone who wants to help us → we turn to drugs and alcohol to soothe our pains → we get anxious and afraid → we become even more stressed out and depressed.
Both stress and depression are serious matters that should be taken very seriously. There are many different ways to deal with them, and it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, be active, stay social, and deal with these issues head-on.
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