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World J Biol Psychiatry. 2005;6 Suppl 2:5-22.

Can stress cause depression?

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Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Academic Hospital Maastricht, and the Brain and Behavior Research Institute, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.


The central issue raised in this paper is: can stress cause depression? Phrased more precisely: can stress cause brain disturbances thought to underlie (certain forms of) depression or particular components of the depressive syndrome. Focussing on 5-HT and the stress hormones, this question was answered in the affirmative, based on the following two considerations: (1) changes in the 5-HT and stress hormone systems produced by sustained stress, mimic to a substantial extent the disturbances in these systems that may be observed in depression; (2) substantial evidence indicates that the 5-HT and stress hormone disturbances in depression are of pathophysiological significance and not merely a consequence of the depressed state or a product of stress generated by the depressed state. Furthermore, the question was raised whether a depression type could be identified particularly stress-inducible. This question, too, was answered in the affirmative. The depression type in question was named anxiety/aggression-driven depression and characterized on three levels: psychopathologically, biologically and psychologically. Preferential treatment of this depression type was discussed. In studying stress-inducible depression biological depression research should shift focus from depression per se to the neurobiological sequelae of stress. Treatment of stress-inducible depressions and particularly its prevention should be geared towards reduction of stress and stress sensitiveness, utilising both biological and psychological means.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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