Effects of Stress and Depression to the Systems of the Human Body
Depression episodes and stress are pretty common these days. But, if we define stress as anything that can push us to accomplish tasks, then it is a good form of stress that can be vital for a healthy life. Prolonged depression, however, can be harmful at some point. It can lead to insomnia, convulsions, dementia, and even life-threatening conditions. Yes! It is that serious. That is why it is a high time that we understand these destructive effects. If they are not treated soon or given attention to, all of these physical and mental health issues can cause dysfunctions on different systems in the body.
What is Depression?
Depression has affected a large population that consists mainly of young people. According to the American Psychiatry Association, Depression is a serious medical condition that harms your feeling, thought, and activities. You tend to lose interest in your everyday activities, and you experience overwhelming gloominess. Yet, a short period of sadness cannot be considered as depression. If you observe any of these symptoms in yourself or any friend or family, a professional diagnosis must be made sure.
Symptoms of depression
It is not necessary for two people going through depression to experience the same symptoms. One of them might be suicidal, whereas the other might look completely normal, so it is imperative to consult a psychiatrist.
- Having episodes of sadness
- Losing interest in activities that you enjoyed previously
- Decreased energy
- Insomnia or sleeping a lot
- Urge to stay in darkness
- Feeling guilty
- Suicidal thoughts
If you have any of these symptoms, it is highly recommended to visit a psychiatrist and find the root cause of the condition.
Causes of Depression
There are various causes of depression, many of which are associated with traumatic events of life.
Stressful life incidents
It is said that the traumatic and stressful life events in early age can have life-long effects on one's mental health.
Trauma and losses
Just like any sad incident in the past, any sudden trauma or loss of a close family member can aid in establishing depression.
It is not very well-known among people, but dietary deficiencies can alter normal body functions, which can lead to depression. Usually, the lack of Vit B12 and Vitamin D is the trigger.
Neurotransmitters are essential for your proper brain functioning, but sometimes fluctuation in the levels of these neurotransmitters occurs which is a significant cause of stress that results in depression.
Malfunctioning of endocrine glands
Have you ever experienced stress due to any health issues? If so, let us tell you that it's okay! A lot of people feel the same due to their health conditions. Though, you must always try to get out of the stressed and depressed state.
Cancer or any prolonged disease
Cancer or any such prolong disease can be devastating. And all those fighting against them are the heroes! However, it is not right to suffer from depression, along with fighting another painful disease.
When we talk about the stressful events in life, it is important to have an understanding of what stress it.
What is Stress?
Stress can be considered both a physical and emotional condition. Stress is a response to any threat, whether that is real or just in your subconscious. Stress can be positive or negative. Positive stress includes excitement and nervousness for your wedding, an upcoming appraisal, pregnancy, or a long-awaited holiday, etc. This stress is not harmful, but the negative stress tends to have harmful effects on your body. Timely stress helps you keep alert, and also keeps you focused on a dangerous situation. However, negative stress or distress results in an extreme response by the body, which can lead to serious consequences in the future.
Symptoms of stress
You might be suffering from negative stress without even realizing it. Moreover, you wouldn't be able to understand the effects of stress on your body. Though these few symptoms might help you judge if you are suffering from stress
- Frequent sweating
- Trembling of hands
- Muscle spasms
- Faintness and dizziness
- Difficulty in breathing
- Anxiety or guilt
- Sudden increase or decrease in appetite
- Rapid pulse
Causes of stress
Many intrinsic and extrinsic factors can be a cause of stress stimulation in your body. Some of the extrinsic and intrinsic stress factors include:
Major life changes
Changes in life events can be a cause of stress for many. Losing your job suddenly or distance from any of your loved ones can be one of the influencing factors leading to stress.
Relationship problems are among the most influential external factors that cause stress. It is one of the biggest issues among young adults and married couples that give birth to anxiety and depression. Sometimes the relationship issues move to divorce, which is another factor contributing to stress.
Being too occupied
Being very busy in your lives and not being able to spend time with your family negatively affects people and leads to stress.
Sometimes lack of confidence and positivity is also a significant cause of stress as it makes you more vulnerable to emotional distress.
Some other frequent life events are a leading cause of stress among people
- Death of a close family member
- Job loss
- Injury or illness
Stress Versus Depression
Signs of stress
Signs of Depression
Difficulty in breathing
Lack of energy
Insomnia or more sleep than usual
Effect of Stress and Depression on your body
Stress and depression are not very obvious until they reach a critical stage, yet they show symptoms in the very beginning. As soon as you observe any of these indications, it is important to nip the evil in the bud before it does major damage. Depression and stress not only contribute to emotional problems but many physical health issues too.
Common signs and effects of stress On Your Behavior
Influence on eating habits
Change in the sleep cycle
Common effects and symptoms of stress On Mental Health
Gradual depression development
Loss of focus
Common effects of stress on your physical health
A stressed and depressed human cannot be a healthy human. Other than affecting your mood and behaviour, depression tends to harm several body systems of yours, intensely, including
The nervous system
The endocrine system
The cardiovascular system
The respiratory system
The muscular system
The digestive system
The reproductive system
The immune system
1. The Nervous System
Among all the systems in the body, the nervous system has the most prominent role in any mental health issue. This is because the Sympathetic Nervous System generates the "fight or flight" response. When the body perceives a threat or dangerous situation, the SNS prepares the body for a "fight or flight" response to the stimulus. This leads to stimulation of glands in the body that makes changes in the healthy body physiology owing to the current circumstances.
These fight or flight responses for a short time can help combat any sudden harmful stimulus. But, if the stressful situation prevails within the body, it creates a barrier between the body's normal functioning. It is also reported that in a continuous state of stress and depression, the brain size reduces leading to decrease memory and focus, and other mental disorders.
Dopamine, Serotonin, and Acetyl Choline are essential neurotransmitters in the brain that are vital for different functions and have a great impact on our mood and behaviour too. Depression is mainly caused by a decrease in the levels of Serotonin which alters the normal activity of the Nervous system.
This prevailing condition of stress and depression, if left unattended and untreated, can be a trigger of insomnia, anxiety, severe depression, and suicidal thoughts.
2. The Endocrine System
The Endocrine system of our body comprises of all the body glands that produce hormones and necessary secretions for the proper functioning of the body. However, the functioning of the Endocrine System is directly influenced by the nervous system. We already discussed that the Sympathetic Nervous system generates a "fight or flight" response to any dangerous stimulus, but what does that response do? And how?
When the body decides you put forward a defense mechanism against any kind of external factor, the SNS intimates the Adrenal gland to secrete Cortisol and Adrenaline. These hormones together result in increased heart rate, increased blood supply to the heart, an increase in respiratory rate, glucose levels in the bloodstream increase. Whereas other body functions like the blood vessels in the limbs and the stomach go to a state of relaxation. These changes occur because of the increased blood supply to the heart and brain, which is essential in such conditions.
When the fear is thought not to exist anymore, the Central Nervous System signals all the systems of the body to perform normally. In contrast, if the stressful condition prevails, the systems stay in the same "fight and flight" mode, which is NOT normal. This justifies why the patients who suffer from stress experience increased or decreased appetite, irregular breathing, etc.
Effect of depression and stress on the endocrine system can induce several other problems including:
- Chronic fatigue
- Immune disorders
3. The Cardiovascular System
If you are surprised that stress and depression can have a potentially harmful effect on the Cardiovascular system, then you must look forward to more surprises. Yes, there are several possible hazards to the heart due to the imbalance of hormones and neurotransmitters.
When the body moves to the condition of stress, the heart starts to beat faster to provide more blood to the vital organs of the body, and the increased pumping also adds to the blood pressure in the vessels. This is the "fight or flight" response we talked about. But in chronic stress conditions, the symptoms do not relieve, and the CVS continues this response until the stress goes away.
The continuously disturbed heartbeats and elevated blood pressure can also prove to be fatal. If the condition persists, it can even lead to Hypertension or Heart attack. Not only the stress is harmful to CVS; depression can be the precursor of the "broken heart syndrome."
If you don't know about it, let us explain it to you. When you experience the loss of a close friend or family member that pushes you into a state of trauma, you are vulnerable to a disturbed heart activity that feels like a heart attack! Do not ignore any such sign and rush to medical assistance as soon.
4. The Respiratory System
The respiratory system is also affected by the continuous state of stress along with the heart. As stimulated by your CNS, the breathing rate rises to distribute oxygen-rich blood to the organs more efficiently and quickly. In the case of long-lasting stress, the breathing rate does not fall to normal, which can be troublesome for you if you already suffer from any breathing problems such as asthma.
It is reported that the loss of a near and dear could trigger asthma attacks. Also, extended hyperventilation (increased respiratory rate) can increase the risks of panic attacks.
5. The Muscular System
If you have regular pain in the neck, shoulders, back, or other body parts, it is also a notable feature of stress. When you are stressed and depressed, your muscles tend to tense up and become stiff to save you from the external danger. However, these conditions stay for only a while. And the muscles get back to their normal anatomy and physiology once the stress stimulus is over. But, what happens if the stress prevails? If the stress is chronic along with the depression you are going through, the muscles do not get to return to their previous elasticity and cause headaches, migraine, shoulder pain, etc.
It is advised to go to a physician and present your symptoms for a proper diagnosis and treatment to relieve the pain and muscle stiffness.
6. The Digestive System
Many people might not be familiar with the connection of the digestive system to stress or depression. Yet, both of them harm the gut. Depression can be the initiator of many gut-related health conditions like stomach aches, constipation, cramps, and malnutrition. The malnutrition occurs as a result of loss in appetite or not taking a proper diet. Depressed people seem to take sweet foods and those high in carbohydrates without realizing that it can lead to a serious condition like Diabetes Type 2.
Talking of diabetes, you are not at high risk only if you are depressed. Any person who is in a continuous state of stress is at the same risk of developing diabetes. Why? When stress occurs, the liver begins to produce extra blood sugar by catabolism to fulfill the energy requirements of the body. An extended-release of excess glucose in the blood can elevate the risk of diabetes type 2.
Additionally, the rush of hormones can cause acid reflux, heartburn leading to ulcers as a consequence of increased acid levels in the stomach. Other digestive system conditions provoked by stress are:
- Stomach ache
7. The Reproductive System
Due to different reproductive anatomy and physiology, men and women experience the effects of depression and stress in different ways too. The male reproductive system is managed by the Parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system collectively. When the sympathetic nervous system gets activated, the "fight or flight" responses and creates arousal. When the body is in a state of stress, it also affects the reproductive system negatively in many ways
- Decreased libido
- Low Testosterone levels
- Decreased sperm motility
- Abnormal sperm morphology
- Erectile dysfunction
A swift response from the sympathetic system does create arousal. But this condition does not prevail for long, and ultimately the testosterone levels begin to fluctuate, causing many reproductive issues. Not only, stressed men experience the above-mentioned health and emotional issues; depression only worsens the condition as the sex drive also decreases.
Some studies say that men who have experienced emotional trauma twice or more in life had low sperm motility and a lesser number of normal sperm morphology. If we talk about the extreme conditions that can develop as a result of stress, those include infections to the urethra, testes, and prostate gland.
It is not that men alone receive negative adverse effects on their reproductive health women are equally vulnerable to health damage by stress and depression. Women naturally have a lower sex drive than men, but it faces a further decline when women are stressed due to any family, personal, or financial reasons. The events or systems that are most affected in women are
- Sexual desire
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Postpartum adjustment
The function of the female physiology most affected is the menstrual periods, as even minor stress leads to irregular cycles, painful periods, or heavy bleeding. Moreover, stress and depression harm a woman's ability to conceive.
The women diagnosed with depression and stress are more susceptible to develop anxiety meantime, and normal depression cases may lead to Postpartum Depression (PPD), which makes it very difficult for a new mother to adjust and bond with her baby.
Stress makes it additionally challenging to deal with the premenstrual symptoms where sometimes, the PMS can worsen unbearably owing to the stress. The common premenstrual symptoms include negative mood, mood swings, bloating, cramps, etc., but the severity differs from one woman to the other. Depression has associated with PPD and menopause as women experience changes in hormone levels. The symptoms of menopause are already strenuous to deal with, and stress only boosts the intensity of those. Physicians prescribe the use of hormonal supplements for menopause, but they should only be used if advised by a doctor.
Stress and depression are also a major precursor of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, and this syndrome only elevates the pre-existing depression because of its symptoms end effects on the body.
8. The Immune System
When the body senses a foreign threat and stimulates SNS to produce the response in the form of stress, the immune system also gears up against the foreign antigen. Though this response helps to fight against the threat immediately, prolonged such a situation can weaken the immune system, and people under chronic stress are more susceptible to infections and common viral illnesses.
The extended activation of the system is also associated with depression. Some studies show that around 30% of people suffering from depression have a higher immune activity, which means that gradually, the immune system might not be as strong.
Stress and depression are two conditions that have adverse effects on the body. Visiting a doctor is highly emphasized as soon as you feel any of the symptoms of depression, But you can manage stress yourself too (unless it is chronic stress).
Let's tell you some tips for stress relaxation
Take out time for yourself
Take a deep breath and say, it is okay to prioritize yourself!
If you understand the need for self-care and taking a break for your good, you can kick negative stress out of your life right away.
Exercise is one of the many stress management activities that experts advise for a healthy living. Exercise does not only help you in stress relaxation but also keeps you fit and healthy. Even s stroll in the walk, yoga, or light exercise can act to alleviate the stressed and depressed state of mind and body.
Eat Healthy Food
Healthy eating can be the ultimate solution to all your problems (almost!). Intake of healthy foods like milk, cheese, green vegetables, dry fruits, and others can save you from nutritional deficiencies. A healthy diet also ensures that you get enough nutrients for proper bodily functioning.
Detox Greens Supplements
Detoxification is a great idea whether you talk about your body or the company around you! The green detox supplements based on green, probiotics, enzymes, and much more help to regulate your bodily functions and act as stress reducers.
Stress and depression can take a toll on your physical and mental health, but there are many tips for stress relaxation that can take you towards a better, focused life. Know your symptoms and contact medical aid before the condition becomes critical. Also, make sure to offer help from a psychologist if anyone in your circle is stressed and depressed.