Question: What is the connection between stress and depression?
Answer: Well, I think we need to start by defining stress as a normal and automatic process in the body that allows us both physically and emotionally to respond to challenges. We all experience stress and normally we respond to it quite well, but often we differ as to what we find stressful. My son, for example, finds heavy metal music to be relaxing while I really do not.
Now having said that, there are situations in which stressful or traumatic episodes can trigger depression. And the first of those examples is when someone has a biological risk for depression based on their genetic history; a father, mother, sibling, who has depression or substance abuse puts them at risk for experiencing depression that can be expressed in the context of a stressful situation or a trauma.
The more common, I think, connection between stress and depression now is in the accumulated stresses that come in a world in which we have multiple roles, or we're juggling multiple stressors or we are confronted with various major changes in our lives that overwhelm our bodies' response to respond to each of them and produce stress hormones at such a level that it begins to affect us physically and emotionally. The psychologist Martin Seligman defined "learned helplessness" as that condition where those stresses mount to the point that we develop the perception of not having control of events in our lives, and that perception is a depressive one.