Stress, genes and environment key factors that cause depression

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Stress is never good for a person's health but experts now opine that a little stress is after all not that harmful. Stress is as natural as breathing and brings in the "fight or flight" mechanism in one thus leading to necessary physiological responses to react to danger.

"Like email and email spam, a little stress is good, but too much is bad; you'll need to shut down and reboot," says Esther Sternberg, stress researcher and the chief of neuroendocrine immunology and behavior at the National Institute of Mental Health in the US.

Too much stress leads to hyper-responsiveness where the body starts reacting negatively which eventually affects the body and mind. Chronic stress produces hormones such as cortisol (the "stress" hormone) and reduces serotonin and dopamine (the "happy" hormones), giving birth to depression.

Stress is directly related to a person's mood and brings irritability, reduced concentration levels and lack of sleep. Chronic and prolonged stress leads to depression. Too much stress makes one do their favorite things which they usually perform to de-stress. This keeps the vicious cycle of bad mood intact, thus leading to more stress and frustration which makes one partake in dangerous behaviors. Stress is like cancer, killing one slowly, devastating their lives and relationships and detaching the victim from the society. This leads to depression in the individual.

"Stress, or being stressed out, leads to behaviors and patterns that in turn can lead to a chronic stress burden and increase the risk of major depression," says Bruce McEwen, author of The End of Stress as We Know It.

According to experts, stress cannot be avoided but one should seek immediate medical help to lessen down its impact.

A 45-year-old caught in the grip of stress almost 20 years ago, said that after getting into a stressful job his sleep, social interaction with his friends and family, eating habits all were affected.

"And one day, as I was driving to work, the thought suddenly came to me, 'If I have an accident now, I don't have to go to the office," he added.

After he sought the help of a psychiatrist, he was diagnosed with depression. It took six months for him to recover. The 45-year-old claims that since then he has not been affected by depression and that now he is happy.

Esther Sternberg states that people suffering from depression should not blame themselves as "it's partly your genetic makeup, partly your current environment, and partly your early environment that led to the depression."