Does stress cause depression and anxiety? 

I love this topic because people often wonder how they ended up with depression. Hopefully this will shed a little light on the subject.

Each of us has a group of hormones that act on our nervous systems. They’re called neurotransmitters. The entire group keeps itself in balance. I picture it like a teeter-totter. On one side you have all of your calming, happy, feel-good hormones. On the other side you have all of your excitatory hormones. The system has been around since the dawn of time and was originally designed for the “fight or flight” response. Back then, while you were going about your day collecting berries, or whatever you did back then, if you came around a corner and were face-to-face with a bear all of your excitatory hormones would have shot up, tipping that teeter-totter completely to one side. This would have given you the almost super-human ability to either run or fight off the bear. By doing one of those two things, you would use up most of that surge of energy, bringing the teeter-totter almost back to balance. Your calming neurotransmitters then increase their production just a bit to bring perfect balance back to the system. Now, realistically, how often do you think that happened? Once a month? Twice a year? The point is that it didn’t happen that often so you system had plenty of time to recover after each incident.

Now, zoom forward to today. Every time you have stress, no matter how little, your excitatory hormones still shoot up as if your body is sensing danger. Of course, they don’t shoot up nearly as much as they would if you actually ran across a bear, nevertheless they still go up. The problem is that you usually don’t run or fight anything off. So you don’t use up that surge of neurotransmitters. Well, your body really dislikes anything out of balance. So those calming hormones will try to increase their production even more to bring the system back into balance. The first problem is that we have stresses numerous times each and every day. And your body responds the same way each time. Unfortunately, your poor little calming hormones just weren’t designed to work so hard. Over time, you basically use them up to the point that there is no one left to help bring those excitatory guys back down.

The two main calming neurotransmitters are serotonin and GABA. To simplify, serotonin can be seen as your anti-depressant hormone and GABA can be seen as your anti-anxiety hormone. When they have both been depleted by years of stress, you can end up with depression and anxiety. If you have either of these symptoms, be sure to get your neurotransmitters tested.

The moral to this story is: If you ever feel anxious when you meet a bear, think of your Gaba and calmly walk away from his lair. If your escape does not work and he catches up with you, be sure to increase your serotonin and smile wide as he devours you.