I hope you are well and taking care of your mental health. Today my randomness led me to think about depression and stress and how thin that line is. I also felt that we have become a generation that likes to romanticize depression and anxiety while still isolating those who are genuinely depressed and denying that we might be depressed.
I had never thought that there was a big difference between the two until I visited a therapist. On my first day with a therapist, she asked why I had chosen to go to therapy, and I said, ‘ I think I am depressed and I need to stop being depressed.’ She gave a long look and sighed before asking whether I had been diagnosed by a professional and then proceeded to prod if I was just stressed and not depressed. At first, I remember feeling angry that she was undermining my pain and opinion, but later I understand that her concerns came from a good place. Understanding whether you are depressed or stressed is essential because it helps you not to minimize depression and prevent people from romanticizing depression. I don’t want to use my experience to explain the difference because everyone is different, so I will use resources to see what differences they state.
According to Wikipedia, the description of depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity; it can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, motivation, feelings, and sense of well-being, while stress is a type of psychological pain. Small amounts of stress may be desired, beneficial, and even healthy. Positive stress helps improve athletic performance. It also plays a factor in motivation, adaptation, and reaction to the environment. Excessive amounts of stress, however, may lead to bodily harm. Stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, and mental illnesses such as depression and also aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
According to Psychology Today, stressing out for too long often leads to depression. The difference between depression and stress is in the severity and duration of symptoms. Being stressed out is associated with a feeling of being overwhelmed in my case I feel like I am underwater, and I can’t breathe, and sometimes I have a constant need to keep working. When you fail to cope with this feeling, it transforms into a chronic mood, and at that point, we can call you depressed. Depression is not a bad mood. You experience symptoms like lack of energy, withdrawing from other people, trouble making decisions, feeling restless, eating more or less than usual, feeling hopeless, feeling anger or rage, feeling that you can’t overcome difficulties in your life.
According to Alvarado Parkway Institute Behavioral Health System, stress is a normal part of life and could even be good for human survival. However, too much stress is not good for you. Too much stress could lead to feeling angry, getting sick often, change in eating habits, getting sick often, feeling overwhelmed, and memory problems. Depression is characterized by a feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities one enjoys. This can be seen through symptoms like feeling sad and hopeless, anger and rage, loss of interest in hobbies, lack of energy and motivation, feeling restless, agitated and irritable, and feeling suicidal
Help Guide describes depression as ‘living in a black hole,’ having a feeling of impending doom, others feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic.
Harley Therapy suggests that depression triggers are difficult to experience or a build of issues that you haven’t dealt with that are too much for you or often seem o just arrive out of the blue.
All these are symptoms that can help you decide whether you are stressed or depressed, but you need to get diagnosed by a therapist. This is because you could be wrongly diagnosing yourself. I know the step to go talk to a therapist is hard because of the stigma around it, and the idea that you need someone else to be okay is scary. It also took me a lot of energy to go to a therapist and even more energy to keep going. There’s nothing wrong with accepting that you need help, so get help. If you can’t afford a therapist, there is a lot of YouTube Videos willing to teach you how to cope and websites like Mayo Clinic, Psychology Today, etc. with content that could help. The path to healing requires a lot of hard work and commitment; it could even be painful, but it’s worth it. It improves the quality of your life through better relationships with yourself and others.
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With love and grace,