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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can stress lead to depression?

    I have a very stressful career as an investment banker and I am beginning to notice that it's taking a toll on my overall happiness. Can a stressful career be linked to and/or cause depression?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2


    Elisha Lawry

    Organisational Psychologist, Psychologist

    I have a deep commitment to helping people achieve an effortless life balance. My focus is to bring positive transformation to clients suffering from Anxiety, … View Profile

    Yes it can. There is no hard and fast rule as to what is depression. People have different ideas about depression. It can be seen as a chemical imbalance, and certainly from the medical model, all forms of depression are a chemical or hormonal imbalance.

    When someone is very stressed, generally their body does not function as well as when they are not stressed. Stress can lead to a problem with all sorts of emotional, mental, and physical health issues. Depression being one of the many health issues that people are facing at the moment.

    When I am working with someone who has come to see me due to depression or due to anxiety or due to stress, I look at all of those conditions. I look at how they are looking after themselves in terms of are they exercising, are they eating well, are they sleeping well, are they drinking enough fluids. I also like to check are they drinking fluids that will be harmful such as alcohol. We do know that when anyone is experiencing stress or stressors, it can lead to all sorts of issues including depression.

  • 1


    Renee Mill

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Empowering people is my passion and life work. I have been working as a Clinical Psychologist in private practice for over thirty years. I have … View Profile

    There is no doubt that lifestyle can contribute to depression. However, there are different types of depression. There is "reactive"  depression where your low mood and negative thoughts are a reaction to life pressures. And then there is "endogenous" depression that has nothing to do with external factors.  

    Moreover, certain symptoms of stress can mimic depressive symptoms like exhaustion and negative self beliefs.

    You could seek a diagnosis from a psychologist if  you are concerned.  Or  you could make lifestyle changes and relieve some of your pressures and see how that goes. Or both!


  • 1


    Alysha Coleman

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist

    Alysha is the Primary Clinical Psychologist and Director of The Institute for Healthy Living, a clinical psychology practice in Bondi Junction. Alysha has worked with … View Profile

    It’s important to remember that there’s a difference between depression and feeling less happy than you did before. Depression comes in many forms but also has many observable symptoms, usually impacting the individual’s day-to-day ability to function. These may include:

    • difficulty falling asleep and/or waking up;
    • fatigue or listlessness nearly every day;
    • inability to concentrate;
    • significant change in weight;
    • low mood nearly every day; or
    • reduced ability to take care of yourself e.g. remembering to shower and eat.

    This may or may not describe you. As Elisha and Renee have said, ongoing stress can certainly lead to or be a catalyst for developing depression, as it reduces our mental and physical ability to keep ourselves well.

    Even if you aren’t depressed at a clinical level, it sounds like you’re struggling with elements of your life, as many of us do. Stress at work is a very common reason for people to come and see me. Talking with a psychologist can offer you invaluable support in managing your stress and finding positive ways to reduce it.

  • 2


    Karen Coleman

    Counsellor, Naturopath


    I would say a link is possible. The stress response is physiological " fight, flight or freeze"and is well suited to short term stressors. When stress goes on for a longer period, the hormones and nutrients that maintain that response can be depleted and can develop into adrenal fatigue. This in turn can  create varied hormonal and neurotransmitter responses as the body works really hard to keep going. Stress tends to reduce digestive secretions as digesting is not what we do when we are trying to survive something. The stress response can be maintained when followed by a period of "rest and digestion". Hence, many stressed individuals experience a range of digestive symptoms such as reflux, Irritable bowel, constipation as a few. The links between dysregulated gut flora and gut health overall are developing as a background to Depression. 

  • 1


    Marie Bloomfield

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Marie Bloomfield is a highly experienced psychologist specialising in helping to manage anxiety, fears, panic attacks, depression, relationships, parenting, pain, trauma and weight loss. She … View Profile

    When we are in constant "stress" mode we will enjoy life less. Being in stress response mode is not a happy place.  So maybe it is a matter of more work life balance.

    In the mindfulness and self-compassion programs, that I teach, we learn ways to be present, to relax, to savour: taking time to smell the roses.  By learning to be in the here and now,  we become aware of the vagaries of our mind which enables us to let go of the unnessary stressful way of thinking, being able to stand back, acquiring new skills to become more resilient and effective in our workplace, We learn to replace the harsh inner critique with a positive, encouraging inner voice that is suportive and uplifting.  We  learn also to relax better when we are not at work so we can enjoy our home life more.  Overall the program is promoting a healthy way of living to create  a more engaging and fulfilling life.

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