I believe that accepting certain things in our life as they are could help us lead more contented lives that we will be more satisfied with. One of those things that we need to tolerate as part of our everyday reality is that stress is unavoidable and that it affects pretty much all of us at some point in our lives.
However, I’ve noticed that in day-to-day talking with family and friends, some people have been using the words ‘stress’ and ‘depression’ interchangeably when describing themselves feeling low. They would claim to be depressed, nevertheless, after discussing their situations with them it becomes clear that how they feel about their issues and lives is stress-induced and is linked directly to the problems of modern society, such as work-related issues, relationships and family problems, money problems and lack of employment opportunities.
This raises the question of people’s ability to identify whether the symptoms they are experiencing fit the description of stress or depression or whether their choice of words to describe their emotional state is affected by outside influences they are exposed to, such as media. Is it possible that the focus of media on mental health awareness could cause people to be more familiar with the word ‘depression’, subsequently causing the line between stress and depression to be blurred and resulting in people confusing feeling low due to experiencing stressful situation in their lives for depression?
Furthermore, another reason why some people might find it difficult to distinguish between feeling stressed and depressed is that we all have different abilities to handle difficult situations in our lives. What one person considers a manageable everyday task, another could find extremely stressful. This is largely affected by people’s perspective on life and how they’ve learned to deal with stressful situations when they were younger. If they haven’t learned to cope with stressful situations at a young age, they may find it extremely difficult to manage their stress and their cognitive and emotional responses to stress as adults.
There are certain similarities between stress and depression that might make it difficult for people to distinguish between the two. Stress is that feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure that all of us have experienced. This feeling of being overwhelmed is usually triggered by something that is happening to us and it’s too much for us to deal with. It has many different forms, such as work issues, problems in a relationship, family feuds, money problems, performing day-to-day tasks etc.
Feeling stressed can affect our concentration, our motivation and it might make us more irritable with others. Experiencing stress could also affect us physically and it might affect our sleep pattern, eating habits and some people might get headaches and stomach aches.
On the other hand, depression is a chronic condition that is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. When there is a deficiency in neurotransmitters called dopamine and serotonin, the brain chemistry gets altered and people can experience depression.
Depression exists in a psychological, social and biological context. It is influenced by genetics, hormones, diseases, drug and alcohol use, as well as influences of family, friends or work.
One of the symptoms of depression is negative thinking and feeling of hopelessness as people feel there is no way out of the dark and lonely place they are in. People with depression tend to feel exhausted and they find it difficult to think straight. Depression causes prolonged periods of sadness and people may experience suicidal thoughts.
Depression could be caused by stress being left untreated as it can lead to negative behaviour and affects people’s ability to feel positive and optimistic. It is therefore essential not to underestimate stress and learn new techniques of dealing with stressful situations that we are faced with before it leads to depression.
People who feel stressed or depressed might need expert help, which may be in the form of talking therapies, and in case of severe depression where the chemical imbalance needs to be corrected, this sometimes would have to be in conjunction with medication.