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Allostatic Load and Depression

 article about Allostatic Load and Depression

This article belongs to Joe is Fine, Are you? column.


I was reading about Allostasis today while catching up on some homework for health psychology and I wanted to illustrate how this concept has been diminished in an individual using my own experiences. First allostasis is the ability to achieve stability through change. The autonomic nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and the cardiovascular, metabolic, and immune system are all involved in dealing with stress everyday.

There are four causes of allostatic load:
1. Frequent Stress
2. Lack of adaptation- failure to cope effectively
3. Inability to turn off the allostatic response when the stress is gone
4.Inadequate responses by some allostatic systems so that other systems have to increase their activity

This has been a factor in cardiovascular disease along with the increased production of cortisol. So yes stress and the allostatic load can affect your ability to lose weight and likely help you gain those unwanted pounds. However, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, not enough sleep will also help one to gain weight. Not to mention excessive alcoholic consumption, drug abuse and other self destructive behaviors will lead to a myriad of health problems later in life and lest we forget smoking. Yeah I know what your thinking that I went off on a tangent there, but people who suffer from allostatic load often turn to self destructive behaviors because they do not know how to use more effective and productive coping strategies.

Now how do I come in here. First I am what one friend called a modern day Job. You name it I have been through it or have been very closely associated with someone who has also. The first factor and the third factor listed above are two of the main factors that have led me to being moderatly to severely depressed most of the time. At one time I also lost the ability to do the second item on the list. When my grandmother passed away coupled with the hand injury not long afterwards that was just too much, on top of dealing with other issues in my life at the time. Never mind the fact that I never had a chance to process anything that happened in my childhood. The hand injury was the straw that broke the camels back. As I sat there talking to my nurse practitioner about my chronic fatigue issues I was in astute denial that I could have succumbed to depression. I was too strong to get depressed or so I thought. After talking to her twice maybe three times about this I finally agreed to start treatment with Zoloft.

Zoloft hasn't been the cure all for me so don't go thinking that there is always a magic pill to help you with all your problems it doesn't exist. What it has done is help the nuerotransmitters responsible for stress management to function again. I still get stressed out but because I have some help now I am able to do what I need to do everyday and get things done.

Now for those who are on anti depressants it is good practice to take your meds at the same time everyday. If you fluctuate too much in the timing it can decrease the effectiveness a bit. I went through this when I decided to start taking my meds at night. I had to go back to taking them during the day because when my body is at rest it is harder for the medicine to metabolize in my body. If I take them during the day preferably first thing in the morning it will kick in around the time I have to be en route to class and then I can focus in class. I also am able to focus on the other non school related tasks that I need to get done as well.

Next week I want to share with you some good coping strategies that are creative yet practical for every day life.


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