How To Help Someone With Anxiety
If youre watching a loved one struggle with severe anxiety, it can take a serious toll on your own mental health. That said, there are some things you can do to offer them effective support.
Here are some ways you can help someone who is experiencing anxiety:
- Dont enable: If youre continually making concessions for someone because of their anxiety, it can have the adverse effect of helping them avoid things that they should learn to face head-on. This could end up leaving them more limited in the long run.
- Dont force confrontation: Leave confrontation to the persons therapist. Trying to push someone when they arent ready can lead to them resenting you.
- Express validation: Dont minimize their fears or nerves in any way. Instead, let them know that you understand that different people are triggered by different things, largely as a result of their past experiences.
- Express concern: If you notice that your loved one is avoiding things that they used to love or just generally withdrawing more and more from social situations, its OK to point that out to them using specific examples.
If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Immune System In Overdrive
The authors acknowledge that the mechanisms by which COVID-19 can wreak havoc on the human nervous system are not well understood.
Cerebrovascular complications, such as a stroke, can occur early in the infection even before the respiratory effects of the disease. Central inflammatory conditions and peripheral nerve symptoms occur later, typically 2 weeks after the acute infection.
These disparate timelines suggest that the cause of these neurologic symptoms may differ. Studying the offers clues as to underlying mechanisms for neurologic damage in people with COVID-19.
CSF is a fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain.
Scientists have observed increases in certain immune-related compounds in the CSF, including:
- Interleukin-1 and IL-2 proteins, which are inflammatory cytokines produced by the body.
- Expression of genes controlled by interferon, an infection-fighting protein present during viral infections.
- Activated T-cells and natural killer cells, which combat viral antigens.
- Breakdown proteins suggesting nerve damage.
Conversely, researchers have not found evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus directly impacts the nervous system. For instance, research has shown that the following factors are reduced or absent in people with a SARS-CoV-2 infection:
When asked about the lack of virus in the CSF and brain cells, Dr. Santosh Kensari, chair, and professor of translational neurosciences and neurotherapeutics at St. Johns Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA, commented:
How To Get Help
Tell your doctor if you have symptoms of depression. Theyâll want to rule out other health conditions so they can find you the right treatment. You might need to make some lifestyle changes, take medicine, or talk to a mental health specialist. Some people benefit from a mix of all three.
Some treatments for mild or serious depression include:
- Healthy diet change
Suicide is a serious symptom of depression. Get help right away if youâre thinking about hurting yourself. You can reach someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Theyâre available anytime, day or night.
Molecular Psychiatry: âSubcortical brain alterations in major depressive disorder: findings from the ENIGMA Major Depressive Disorder working group.â
Translational Psychiatry: âProfound and reproducible patterns of reduced regional gray matter characterize major depressive disorder.â
Neural Plasticity: âThe Role of Neural Plasticity in Depression: From Hippocampus to Prefrontal Cortex.â
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : âDepression, antidepressants, and the shrinking hippocampus.â
Frontiers in Immunology: âThe Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue.â
The Lancet Psychiatry: âMicroglia and major depression: not yet a clear picture,â âAssociation of translocator protein total distribution volume with duration of untreated major depressive disorder: a cross-sectional study.â
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You Might Not Be Able To Sleep
If you’ve experienced anxiety, then you know it can make it tough to fall sleep. And that can, in turn, make anxiety worse. As Gordon says, “Maybe one of the most detrimental changes that anxiety may have on the brain is the toll it takes on sleep. Sleep is one of the most underrated anxiolytics out there.” Which essentially means it has a calming effect.
Without sleep, anxiety can quickly spiral. “One of the major ways anxiety affects sleep is that it may prevent us from reaching REM sleep, the powerful dream-state that satiates our deep need for rest,” she says. “Without reaching REM we are left vulnerable to a host of detrimental outcomes, including, worsening mental health.”
Does Ssri Cause Brain Damage
Of all psychotropic drugs, serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most widely prescribed in most industrialized countries.
This type of antidepressant is popular for several reasons: it is indicated for the most prevalent disorders such as major depression or anxiety disorders, it is effective, and its side effects are almost always well tolerable.
If we understand why depression occurs, we can also understand how SSRIs are effective in the treatment and through what mechanism they act.
In this article we are going to answer the question Does SSRI cause brain damage? We will briefly review how it works, what its properties and adverse effects are, and in which disorders it is most often prescribed.
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Scientists Discover How Chronic Stress Causes Brain Damage
DGIST announced on July 2 that Professor Seong-Woon Yu’s team in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences discovered that chronic stress causes autophagic death of adult hippocampal neural stem cells . These findings are expected to open up new strategies for combatting stress-associated neural diseases.
Chronic stress is infamous for its association with various mental diseases such as depression and schizophrenia that have become very serious social problems. Stress can even raise the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, the exact mechanisms underlying damage of brain functions have not been well known yet. While the previous animal studies found that generation of new neurons is much less in stressed mice, apoptosis, a well-known cell suicide pathway was not found in NSCs, leading to a conclusion that cell death is not related to loss of NSCs during stress. Thus, the cause of decline in adult neurogenesis, which is generation of new neural cells in the adult brain, especially in hippocampus, has remained .
The research team also further examined the mechanism controlling the autophagy induction of NSCs in more depth, proving that SGK3 gene is the trigger for autophagy initiation. Therefore, when SGK3 gene is removed, hippocampal NSCs do not undergo cell death and are spared from stress.
Effects Of Chronic Stress On The Brain
While stress itself is not necessarily problematic, the buildup of cortisol in the brain can have long-term effects. Thus, chronic stress can lead to health problems.
Cortisols functions are part of the natural process of the body. In moderation, the hormone is perfectly normal and healthy. Its functions are multiple, explains the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. In addition to restoring balance to the body after a stress event, cortisol helps regulate blood sugar levels in cells and has utilitarian value in the hippocampus, where memories are stored and processed.
But when chronic stress is experienced, the body makes more cortisol than it has a chance to release. This is when cortisol and stress can lead to trouble. High levels of cortisol can wear down the brains ability to function properly. According to several studies, chronic stress impairs brain function in multiple ways. It can disrupt synapse regulation, resulting in the loss of sociability and the avoidance of interactions with others. Stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain. Chronic stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
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The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts
Adding and subtracting the positive and negative findings helped the authors of the perspective article to formulate a theory regarding the cause of nervous system consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
They do not rule out that the virus may transiently infect the brain very early in infection. However, the authors ultimately conclude that inflammation and widespread vascular dysfunction may be the vector of neurologic damage in people with COVID-19.
Compared with people with influenza, individuals with COVID-19 exhibit an increased risk of stroke. When scientists studied the blood of people who experienced a stroke, they found elevated blood markers of vascular inflammation, tissue death, and thrombosis, which are clots that obstruct blood flow.
Radiologic testing also provides evidence of injury in people who experienced COVID-19. MRIs confirm microvascular damage and brain atrophy, or shrinkage. Positron emission tomography confirms decreased metabolic activity in the brains of people diagnosed with Long COVID.
This evidence, coupled with the system-wide vascular dysfunction seen in people with severe COVID-19, points to vascular injury as a potential cause of stroke, brain, and nerve injury.
What Happens If Depression Goes Untreated For Too Long
The longer you wait, the harder it will be to treat and the more time it may take for therapy and medications to be effective, Shrand says. Symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, sleeplessness or sleeping too much, loss of energy or interest in normally pleasurable activities, and withdrawing socially.
You May Forget How To Calm Down
When anxiety has taken over your brain â and your worried thoughts are the loudest thoughts you’re having â it can begin a cycle where you essentially lose the ability to self-regulate, or calm yourself down.
“We need to be able to self-regulate our bodies when we are stressed but if we are constantly in a state of anxiety, we are … not able to calm down when stressful situations come our way,” Russell says. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that may need to be broken with the help of loved ones, a professional, or anxiety medication.
Effects Of Stress On The Body
Chronic stress doesnt just lead to impaired cognitive function. It can also lead to other significant problems, such as increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Other systems of the body stop working properly too, including the digestive, excretory and reproductive structures. Toxic stress can impair the bodys immune system and exacerbate any already existing illnesses.
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Chronic Stress Anxiety Can Damage The Brain Increase Risk Of Major Psychiatric Disorders
- Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
- People need to find ways to reduce chronic stress and anxiety in their lives or they may be at increased risk for developing depression and even dementia, a new scientific review paper warns.
A scientific review paper warns that people need to find ways to reduce chronic stress and anxiety in their lives or they may be at increased risk for developing depression and even dementia.
Led by the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences, the review examined brain areas impacted by chronic anxiety, fear and stress in animal and human studies that are already published. The authors concluded that there is “extensive overlap” of the brain’s neurocircuitry in all three conditions, which may explain the link between chronic stress and the development of neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
The paper is posted online this month in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry.
“Pathological anxiety and chronic stress are associated with structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex , which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia,” said Dr. Linda Mah, clinician scientist with Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and lead author of the review.
Explore the latest scientific research on sleep and dreams in this free online course from New Scientistâ
Serotonin Release And Reuptake
When neurons communicate with each other, the presynaptic neuron releases neurotransmitters into the synaptic space, which are picked up by receptors on the postsynaptic neuron.
In the case of circuits for the neurotransmitter serotonin, neurons use this neurotransmitter to communicate. One neuron releases serotonin into space and the other picks it up, understanding that it must be activated.
What happens is that not all neurotransmitters are received and sometimes they remain floating in the intersynaptic space. There are pumps that are responsible for cleaning this excess neurotransmitter and returning it to the presynaptic neuron.
In depression and other disorders, it is hypothesized that there is very little serotonin in this space so that serotonin-starved postsynaptic neurons create many receptors to receive neurotransmitters but are not activated and do not release anything, as in a state of hibernation.
SSRIs block reuptake pumps and allow more and more serotonin to accumulate in space.
Post-synaptic neurons, as they perceive that the concentration of serotonin in space is higher and there is more neurotransmitter available, begin to decrease the number of receptors because they no longer believe they need so many.
The neuron relaxes its strict norm of not releasing anything and begins to let go of serotonin and activate the rest of the neurons in the circuit.
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More Stress Equals Less Gray Matter
When you get stressed, your body releases cortisol, aka the stress hormone.
In limited bursts, this isnt a bad thing. Cortisol has the power to lower your blood pressure, manage your blood sugar, and reduce inflammation within the body.
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley even found that when lab rats were exposed to brief stressful events , stem cells in their brains actually bloomed into new nerve cells. As a result, the rats mental performance improved.
But chronic stress that is, repeated and prolonged exposure to something stressful, like the demanding job or gravely ill parent mentioned above doesnt offer the same perks.
Over long periods of time, elevated levels of cortisol can push you further down the road toward obesity, heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, and unhealthy lifestyle behaviors.
Theres proof it takes a toll on your gray matter as well.
High cortisol levels secreted due to stress damage and reduce the volume of the brain, said Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, a board-certified family and emergency medicine doctor in New York City. We can see this on scans of the brain.
Two areas affected are the hippocampus, which plays a central role in learning and memory, and the prefrontal cortex, which regulates thoughts, emotions, and actions by talking to other brain regions.
So, should these study results serve as a wake-up call that our stressful, Ill sleep when I die lifestyle may not be worth the long-term costs?
How Do Anxiety Disorders Affect Children
Its normal for children to feel some amount of anxiety, worry or fear at certain points. For example, a child may feel scared of a thunderstorm or barking dog. A teenager might get anxious about an upcoming test or school dance.
But sometimes, children approach these situations with overwhelming dread or they cant stop thinking about all the fears tied to one of these events. It may seem that none of your comforts help. These children often get stuck on their worries. They have a hard time doing their daily activities, like going to school, playing and falling asleep. Theyre extremely reluctant to try something new.
When thinking about your childs anxiety levels, getting stuck is key. It separates the regular worries of childhood from an anxiety disorder that needs professional help. If the anxiety or worry interferes with your childs ability to function, it may be time to seek help
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Plasticity And The Brain: The Bodys Recovery System
Plasticity, or neuroplasticity, refers to the ways that neural pathways are able to re-form in the brain. Its true that these pathways like the one between the hippocampus and the amygdala can get severely damaged due to constant exposure to stress, but such changes are not necessarily permanent. While stress can negatively affect the brain, the brain and body can recover.
Young adults, especially, are able to recover from the effects of stress, according to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Age has a direct correlation with the reversibility of stress-related damage. Its much more difficult for older adults to regain or create new neural pathways than their younger counterparts.
Thats not to say all hope is lost for older adults. PNAS points out that interventions, or activities that combat stress wear-and-tear on the brain, are effective regardless of age. Interventions including activities like exercising regularly, socializing and finding purpose in life enable plasticity.
It can seem like stress is an inevitable part of life, but chronic stress can have real and significant consequences on the brain. Understanding these effects and how to combat them can help promote overall health.
Stress Memory And Animals
Much of the research relating to stress and memory has been conducted on animals and can be generalized to humans. One type of stress that is not easily translatable to humans is predator stress: the anxiety an animal experiences when in the presence of a predator. In studies, stress is induced by introducing a predator to a subject either before the learning phase or between the learning phase and the testing phase. Memory is measured by various tests, such as the radial arm water maze . In the RAWM, rats are taught the location of a hidden platform and must recall this information later on to find the platform and get out of the water.
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