And it's effects on health

With regards to cortisol levels and behavioral differences, how does depression and burnout differ?

At the psychological level, the symptoms of burnout and depression are very similar. For example, appetite changes, sleep problems, fatigue, feeling empty and hopeless, and low self-esteem characterize both conditions. There are three key symptoms of burnout: (1) emotional exhaustion, (2) depersonalization or cynicism, (3) devaluation or a diminished sense of personal accomplishment. Biologically, however, burnout and depression are believed to be quite different. In depression, we often see very high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. In burnout, however, cortisol is often quite low. This is of great importance since anti-depressant medications lower cortisol levels, making them potentially ineffective for people experiencing burnout.

Why do certain people lose weight due to stress?

Whereas most individuals tend to gain weight under high levels of stress, some tend to lose weight. Weight gain is often caused by an increase in appetite, caused by our stress responses, which increases the level of energy (if they are calories ingested after the signal of hunger from your body). On the other hand, stress may be associated with weight loss due to increased physical activity and heightened metabolism, leading to loss of calories.

Is stress related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Yes, stress has been associated with the initiation and exacerbation of IBS symptoms.

What are the effects of stress on cholesterol?

A chronic elevation of the stress hormone cortisol generally increases LDL (the "bad" holesterol) and decrease HDL (the "good"cholesterol). It is also interesting to note that cortisol, at it’s molecular base, is made up of cholesterol!


Is stress necessary for life?

Yes, without a healthy stress response, humans would not be able to survive. Stress hormones are essential for many metabolic and daily activities, including eating and waking up!

Is stress bad for the heart?

Yes, chronic stress is associated with increased blood pressure and increased risk of various cardiovascular diseases.

See Acute vs. chronic stress for more details.

Are women more at risk for stress-related disorders like depression?

Yes. Women are more often depressed than men. However, this gender difference only appears after puberty, which suggests the involvement of hormones.

Is chronic stress harmful?

Yes, chronic stress puts you at risk for certain diseases in combination with other vulnerability factors such as pre-existing cardiac problems, pulmonary diseases and genetic tendencies.

See Acute vs. chronic stress for more details.

Is there a relation between excess stress and Alzheimer’s disease?

Chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Patients with AD show elevated levels of cortisol compared to non-AD older adults. Additionally, cortisol may have a toxic effect on the hippocampus, the brain region involved in learning and memory, and the first to shrink in AD.


Is there a link between stress and consumption of drug or alcohol?

Individuals who feel more stressed are generally more likely to consume drugs and alcohol as a way of coping. Also, drugs and alcohol play on the brain’s reward circuitry in order to induce feelings such as pleasure and euphoria. The problem is, these feelings have short-term effects and the person craves them more and more. In conjunction to other negative factors such as debt, family or professional failure in the person’s life, drug or alcohol consumption can reach a point where they can become stressors themselves.