What is the Difference Between Stress and Depression?

Whether it’s a traffic jam on the way to work, an important job interview, or the death of a loved one, everyone experiences varying degrees of stress from time to time. In small doses, stress can be beneficial. It can motivate you to reach your goals and help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. Stress is key for human survival, but too much stress can be detrimental to your health. When you feel stressed for weeks or months on end, stress can make it difficult to concentrate, disrupt your sleep, and make you feel like you can’t overcome challenges in your life. At times, you may feel burned out, or perhaps even depressed. While stress and depression share some similarities, depression is a more serious and long-lasting condition that requires a different kind of treatment.


Common signs of stress

Stress is a normal part of life. A little bit of stress is beneficial and motivating, but too much stress can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, and even heart disease. There are some key ways your body lets you know when you’re experiencing too much stress. Some of the warning signs include:

  • Inability to concentrate or complete tasks

  • Trouble falling asleep or staying awake

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Memory problems

  • A change in eating habits

  • Feeling angry or irritable

  • Having trouble functioning at work

  • Getting sick often

  • Headaches and body aches

Common signs of depression

Depression is a mental health condition that interferes with a person’s ability to carry out daily functions. It’s characterized by feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in once enjoyable activities. A depression diagnosis is typically given once a person experiences a depressed mood and a majority of the following symptoms for at least two weeks.

  • Feeling sad and hopeless

  • Withdrawing from other people

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities

  • Anger and rage

  • Eating more or less than usual

  • Sleeping more or less than usual

  • Lack of energy and motivation

  • Feeling restless, agitated, and irritable

  • Feeling bad about yourself or feeling guilty

  • Suicidal thoughts

What is the difference between stress and depression?

Stress is not a mental health condition. It tends to have an obvious trigger, like a move, divorce, or illness. Stress typically resolves as life events change. However, stress can lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression if it persists over long periods without relief.

Depression is a mental health condition that requires a medical diagnosis. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 17.3 million American adults experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017. While stress is related to life events, depression can happen even if everything in life seems fine - and it can last for years.

How to deal with stress and depression

If you feel stressed to the point where it’s interfering with your ability to perform at work and function in your relationships, there are things you can do to bring your stress down to a healthy level.

  • Exercise - Physical activity releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the brain. Endorphins also improve your ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.

  • Laugh - Getting together with good friends and laughing can reduce stress. Laughter decreases stress hormones and releases endorphins to promote an overall sense of wellbeing.

  • Learn something new - Setting a goal of learning a new language or hobby helps build confidence, which can help you deal with stress.

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs - Many people use alcohol or drugs to find temporary relief from stress. But, in the long term, they’ll only make your problems worse.

  • Volunteer - Helping others in need through volunteering or community work can help put your problems in perspective. The more you give, the less stressed you’ll feel.

  • Use breathing exercises - Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to the brain and triggers the body’s relaxation response, which promotes a state of calmness.

  • Meditate - Meditation allows you to focus your thoughts and calm the stream of jumbled worries clouding your mind and causing stress. If you’re a beginner, there are many apps that offer guided meditations.

Taking steps to manage your stress on your own can help prevent depression. However, if you’ve tried self-help techniques and they aren’t working, or if you have felt sad, withdrawn, overwhelmed, or suicidal for two weeks or longer, help is available.

Depression treatment at Alvarado Parkway Institute

Depression can make it extremely difficult to get through the day. At times, it may feel like there’s nowhere left to turn. At Alvarado Parkway Institute, we help individuals struggling with the symptoms of stress and depression minimize their symptoms so they can enjoy life again. Our customized depression treatment programs include a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, medication management, and education to help each patient achieve their goals and return to a happy, healthy life. Call us today at (619) 485-1432 to speak with our compassionate staff and learn more about how we can help.