Modern society generally sees stress as a negative or harmful emotion. The truth is, we all have a healthy base level of stress, known as eustress. Harmful stress is referred to as distress. Healthy stress is essential in helping us to manage life's challenges. Distress can make us sick, or even kill us.

Researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of Minnesota studied how stressful events contribute to depression and how depression contributes to stressful events over a one year period of time. They found that health-related stress, family violence, and financial stress caused an increase in depression. They also found that depression related to an increase in health-related stress, financial stress, household changes, spouse-partner stress, family violence stress, and substance abuse stress.

Constance Hammen, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of California, studied 14 women with major depression, 11 women with bipolar disorder, 13 women with long term medical illness, and 22 women with no illness or disorder. She found that the depressed women's symptoms, behaviors, characteristics, and social context generated stress which contributed to their depression.

A study conducted at the University of California and Pennsylvania State University tested 154 newlywed couples assessing depressive symptoms, marital stress, support perceptions, and support behavior. The assessment was carried out shortly after the wedding and again one year later. The results indicated that depression symptoms caused marital stress to increase and social support to decrease.

When we experience stress, our brain activates a "fight" or "flight" response. The fight response occurs when we perceive a stressor as a challenge to our control, causing the brain to release the "fight" hormone, norepinephrine. Conversely, if the stressor causes us to feel a possible loss of control, we release a "flight/anxiety" hormone called epinephrine.

Cortisol is a stress hormone which, at healthy levels, regulates energy by distributing fat cells to hungry tissues such as working muscle. Studies have shown that too much cortisol may increase appetite, sugar cravings, and abdominal fat. Scientists at the University of Pittsburg and the University of Oklahoma Health and Science Center have observed that depressed people typically produce much higher levels of cortisol than non-depressed people. Hypercortisolism has been associated with several harmful health effects, including weight gain, high blood pressure and hypoglycemia. Long-term effects can include heart disease and diabetes. It is estimated that up to 50 percent of patients with major depression hypersecrete cortisol.

Fortunately, there are some effective methods to deal with stress and correct these life-threatening problems. Exercise is the one of the most effective ways to manage stress levels. It boosts your levels of mood-lifting neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, and has been found to be more effective in treating depression than antidepressants, according to a Duke University study. Meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, according to a study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Natural supplements will help you deal with stress. Chromium, GABA, 5-HTP, L-Tyrosine,Vitamins C and E, and 50 mg of all B vitamins daily have all been linked to reducing stress and depression. Chromium alleviates depressive symptoms, according to a Duke University study. GABA has been shown to block cortisol. 5-HTP and L-Tyrosine are precursors to the mood-elevating neurotransmitter serotonin. A deficiency in B vitamins has been linked to depression. One study showed that blood cortisol was reduced in elite weightlifters who took 1,000 mg of vitamin C each day. Vitamin E helps to protect nerve cells from oxidative stress. Use each of these natural supplements as directed on the packaging. Be sure to incorporate a healthy diet and get enough sleep as part of your effective stress management plan. Now that you understand How Stress and Depression Cause Each Other, take action to stop this cycle and take control of your life today.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Locklear is a researcher and consultant with 30 years experience, studying health, nutrition, and human behavior. He has been president of the Global Peace Project since 1986, and he administrates the website as part of the Global Peace Project Educational Outreach Program. You can also find him on The Total Health Blog.