Major stressful events in life are one of the best predictors of an onset of depression; especially life events that involve social rejection. Events involving social rejection (such as losing a promotion, a contract, a job, a potential partner, being in a strange and new place without friends and family…) can increase the risk of depression by 21.6%. Stress initiates the thinking and physiological processes that increase the risk for depression; and depression remains undiagnosed and therefore, untreated in two-thirds of the cases. Nearly one in four women and one in six men experience depression in their lifetime, and up to 65% of these individuals have recurrent episodes. In fact, depression has been estimated to be the leading cause of nonfatal disease in the world. Yet, most of us believe that we are immune to it! Nor are we able to recognise it in our loved ones!
How does this happen? Research explains that the body’s primary response to physical injury or infection is inflammation, however in today’s context, psychological stress can trigger significant increases in inflammatory activity in the body – in the absence of physical injury. This increase in inflammation can, in turn, bring out changes in behavior that trigger depressive symptoms such as sad mood, not wanting to have any fun or pleasure, not sleeping, too much sleeping, eating too much, fatigue, or withdrawing from social activities and so on. Therefore, external social conditions – or even people’s mere perceptions of such conditions, may regulate molecular processes that trigger biological and behavioral changes that increase the risk for depression.
Just think about the many situations and interactions at work, home, in traffic that can trigger this inflammation! No wonder stress is at an all time high! This also means that there is a high risk for depression, and we may not be able to recognize the symptoms: not sleeping well, migraine, chronic back pain, being irritable, not wanting to get out of bed, just not wanting to do anything, not looking forward to going to work or home, increased amount of smoking, drinking, or eating. Any combination of these signs lasting for some time can be signal that stress has onset depression.