The words “stressed,” and “depressed” are thrown around a lot these days and often interchanged. To many, depression is a myth, or at best a heightened state of stress (hence the advice to “chill out”). But, these two things are wildlydifferent. In this article, we would explore the difference between stress and depression, and what you must know about them: triggers, types, and the remedy.
What is stress?
Stress as the name suggests, is a state of feelings stretched –pushed to the limits, frustrated, or tired – to the point where your mental, physical, and emotional health begins to be affected.
Stress is oftentimes caused by
- Increased workload
- Drastic life changes (travel, divorce, death of a loved one, etc.)
- Worry (or anxiety)
- Overwhelming responsibilities
- Illness or injury
- Close deadlines
- And many more!
Oftentimes stress comes from events that we feel that we can/could handle, and are obligated to handle.
Hence stress is brought about by changes that are very tasking on us.
And even though stress brings tension into our lives, it can sometimes be good.
Hence we have two types of stress
Basically, when stress is caused by positive events (i.e. positive stressors) it is considered as “eustress” and oftentimes leads to positive results.
For example, when under eustress, you would be forced to get motivated, creative, and focused. The events usually feel within our control, and might even be exciting. A good example of eustress would be getting a promotion which brings in more workload or participating in a challenge and having to compete with other skilled people.
On the other hand, distresses are caused by negative events (i.e. negative stressors). Hence, they bring about confusion, worry, panic, impaired performance, and all-around disorganization. For example, having to deal with a lawsuit, dealing with a breakup, or being trapped in a room with a ticking bomb…
How to deal with stress?
Self-care goes a long way in elevating stress. A little bit of the following can help:
- Drink water
- Practice mindfulness
- Disconnect for a while
- Try or learn something new
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Ask for help
The truth is that some people use the word stress to refer to both positive and negative situations, and sometimes they do overlap. Sometimes good stress can become bad stress and bad stress can morph into good stress. But it gets problematic when stress is conflated with depression – which is something entirely different.
What is depression?
Unlike what many people believe, depression isn’t just another feeling. In fact, depression is an illness. And no, you don’t just get over it. You cannot overcome depression by trying to distract yourself with movies, parties, or more work. It doesn’t phase out if you ignore it; it lingers and festers, leading to darker places – like suicide.
Depression is a persistent feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness. It is when life loses its flavor – when apples become tasteless, ice-creams become flavorless, and movies cease to excite. It is when work feels meaningless and it feels like there is no more point in continuing to live.
And like all other illnesses, depression has its “strains”. It comes in different versions and degrees.
There are different types of depression
- Post-partum depression which is experienced by women who gave birth recently.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which, as the name suggests, is caused by changes in seasons – for example, lack of sunlight triggers SAD in some people.
- Dysthymia which is mild but long-term and very common.
- Bipolar Disorder which is both “maniac”, random and major. And is infamous for causing individuals to lose touch with reality.
Depression doesn’t just strike because you lost your job, or are having a rough day, it can come out of the blue as well.
Depression is caused by
- Chemical imbalances in the brain (like in the case of women who just gave birth – that is, post-partum – with their hormones all over the place)
- Childhood traumas
- Abuse (both verbal and physical)
- Genetics (family history)
- Side effects of the use of drugs or medications, or
- Medical conditions
You can tell if it is depression when the individuals exhibit two or more of the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness
- Lack of concentration
- Low self-esteem
- Insomnia, or excessive sleeping
- Mood episodes that last for days or months at a time
- Chest pain, fatigue, headaches, etc.
- Lost of passion and interest in life
- Weakness and reluctance
- Substance abuse
The good news is that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for depressed people. Depression can be treated and can be managed with proper care and attention.
How to deal with depression?
The best thing a depressed person can do is talk to someone (especially a trained Psychotherapist). If you know someone who is depressed, you can assist by talking to them and encouraging them to share their feelings. However, if they begin to make “jokes” about “plans to kill themselves”, it is a red flag and you should call the suicide number as soon as possible