The Connection between Depression and Stress

Week 4 Discussion: Stress and Depression

The Connection between Depression and Stress – When doctors diagnose a patient’s mysterious pains, sudden sleep difficulties, changes in eating habits, inexplicable migraines or excessive fatigue as psychosomatic, it is easy to apply the layman’s translation of “It’s all in your head.” However, when it comes to these responses to stress, what may be “all in your head” might have a direct impact on what is going on in your body.

With such symptoms as those just described, it is clear that stress, immune function, and depression are linked. For example, those suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder report high levels of depression. Additionally, while you will not find a doctor ordering extensive lab tests to diagnose depression, high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones are found in the blood of the depressed. Also, survivors of early life stress, such as childhood abuse, experience changes in the neurobiology of the brain, making them more vulnerable to depression later in life. Even acute life stressors are known to provoke depression, especially in an environment of poor social support and frequent life crisis. Finally, chronic stress results in lowered immune function and increased incidence of depression. Not only do the relationships between the brain, stress, immune function, and depression exist, but they are bidirectional and complex.

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For this Discussion on The Connection between Depression and Stress , review this week’s Learning Resources as well as the “Stress, Depression, and the Immune Response” section of the “Stress, the Immune System, Chronic Illness, and Your Body” handout. Then reflect on the different ways stress, the stress response, and depression are connected. Finally, consider what part depression plays in the immune and inflammatory response systems.

Week 5 Discussion: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Intervention

Imagine the survivors of a home invasion. Feelings of terror and helplessness that shake the very foundation of personal security are the result when strangers enter the home with the intent and will to do harm. Some survivors may resolve these immediate feelings of helplessness by acquiring a handgun, pepper spray, or watchdogs, or by taking self-defense courses. During, or for a short time immediately following the invasion, some people may experience the onset of acute stress disorder (ASD) exhibited in racing hearts, bouts of insomnia, and feelings of panic at the sound of footsteps approaching the front door. Others may be so traumatized that they never look at their home in the same way or feel as safe no matter how many locks are on the doors or how state-of-the-art their alarm system may be. When the latter individuals experience a delayed onset of physiological response to trauma that is persistent over the long term, their condition is described as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This tragic scenario is just one example of a traumatic event that could lead to severe but short-lived stress or a prolonged stress response that disrupts the lives of the survivors long after the event is over.

For this Discussion, review this week’s Learning Resources including the “Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” handout. Reflect on the similarities and differences between ASD and PTSD. Then consider that you have been asked to prepare a pre-deployment PTSD prevention workshop for military health service workers. Consider intervention techniques you might recommend to prevent the development of PTSD in this population.