Stress & Depression

Some stress is good for you. It motivates you to achieve a goal and prepares you to take on new challenges.

For a hatching chick, pecking its way out of a shell is exhausting and stressful. But the strength and muscles developed during the process helps it survive in the outside world. If you break the bird out yourself, it will die. Hatching chicks are smart enough, however, to take several breaks from their exhausting efforts. We humans are not always so smart.

Too much negative stress can kill you. Literally. Especially when the stresses are constant, consistent and intense – and you don’t give yourself adequate time to recover, your brain and body pay the price.

Chronic stress may be the number one cause of depressed and anxious moods among adults, as well as many serious illnesses such as stroke and heart disease. Long term stress suppresses the immune system .

New research also shows how chronic stress has a cumulative effect that results in “stress sensitization.”

Little by little, biochemical changes exhaust your adrenal glands and other hormones involved in your body’s stress response. Eventually, your body and brain react to minor everyday stresses the same way they would have responded to a major stress in the past. You might be running late for a meeting, but your body and brain react the same way they did to a major crisis in the past.

Do you find yourself thinking: “Why do I get tired so easily? Why am I feeling so overwhelmed – this is really not a big deal. Why am I getting sick so often? Why does it take so little to make me irritable, or anxious and depressed? What’s changed?”

Depression & Adrenal Exhaustion

For some people, depression is a biological brain disorder.  But for many people, depression is a symptom, not a disease. Many studies blame adrenal fatigue as the source of these symptoms. Often referred to as "burnout", adrenal exhaustion is exacerbated by hormone imbalances, food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, poor lifestyle habits, and environmental toxins.

That’s why anti-depressants don’t work for many people. Medication is necessary for those with clinical depression but they provide only slight relief or temporary relief for those with no brain disorder.

Your adrenal glands produce cortisol, DHEA and adrenalin. Chronic stress produces imbalances with debilitating symptoms.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue/ Burnout

Emotional or mental depression
Excessive nervousness and irritability
Cravings for stimulants – sweets, coffee or alcohol
Cravings for salty foods
Poor memory
Faintness or dizziness (especially when rising from a prostrate or sitting position)
Insomnia- trouble getting to sleep, waking up frequently, sometimes not being able to get back to sleep. Sleep is not restorative, leading to more exhaustion and depressed emotions during the day.


Stage 1: Alarm reaction

When you are faced with a surprise, threat, major challenge, or emotional trauma, adrenalin is released and your heart beats faster. The adrenal cortex is stimulated to produce more cortisol and related stress hormones. This mobilizes your energy and focus so you can respond quickly to the situation. When the threat passes, biochemical balance is restored.

Stage 2: Adaptation or Resistance
If the stressful situations are constant and intense over long periods of time, the body produces sustained high levels of adrenal hormones. Blood sugars also increase at times to try and respond to the on-going extra demands for energy.  At this stage, you will feel more driven and tired. You may experience some insomnia and drink more coffee to keep going, or more alcohol to relax. Anxiety and tension increase.

Stage 3: Exhaustion
Over time, the adrenal adrenal glands are no longer able to cope with the unrelenting and ever-increasing demands for cortisol. Gradually, cortisol production declines back to normal levels, then falls below normal -- but not so low as to raise red flags on blood tests.

You will experience gradually worsening mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. This is often accompanied by depressed, anxious or irritable moods. Most people suffer more frequent cold and flu viruses due to a depleted immune system. Insomnia worsens, either by not being able to fall asleep, or waking up frequently and not being able to go back to sleep. At this point you are at high risk of more serious illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Treatment for depression and anxiety caused by chronic stress
Back to non-clinical depression introduction

Clinical depression


 Mental Health News

CMHA Nation-wide Conference
The Canadian Mental Health Association national conference takes place October 22 - 24th 2014 at the Westin Calgary.
Theme: Strengthening Our Collective Voice
Register here

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