Acute Vs Chronic Stress
There are three types of stress a person may encounter: two of them are acute, and one is chronic.
Acute stress is the regular everyday stress we experience when something goes wrong. It’s a short term experience that may leave us feeling annoyed, angry, scared, or a bit upset. Someone may have been driving crazily and nearly hit you on your way to work, and your heart is pounding. Maybe you and your spouse were fighting over something again, and it’s left you in a bad mood. Your boss is hounding you, your dog used the bathroom inside of the house again, and you stubbed your toe getting up in the middle of the night.
All of these can cause any number of emotions from feeling anxious to feeling a bit depressed to being just mad about something getting on your nerves. However, all of these problems are temporary. They will all pass, and your life will get back to normal, whether it’s within a few hours or if it takes a day or two. You could be fretting over an upcoming job interview or about to bungee jump, and these two are more positive examples of the acute stress a person may experience.
Episodic Acute Stress
Stress Halts The Production Of New Brain Cells
Every day you lose brain cells, but you also have the opportunity to create new ones each day.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is a protein thats integral to keeping existing brain cells healthy and stimulating new brain cell formation.
Its often been called fertilizer for the brain.
BDNF can offset the negative effects of long-term stress on the brain.
But cortisol halts the production of BDNF, resulting in the formation of fewer new brain cells.
Lowered levels of BDNF are associated with brain-related conditions, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and Alzheimers disease.
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Toxic Stress: How The Body’s Response Can Harm A Child’s Development
Stress that occurs continually, or is triggered by multiple sources, can take a toll on a childs health. Toxic stress that children suffer not only shapes their emotional lives as adults, but also affects their physical health and longevity.
Can Stress Be Helpful or Good?
Stress is a bodys reaction to situations things and situations that occur within and outside the body. Stress can be helpful and has been hard-wired into our human physiology for survival. For example, imagine you are hiking in the forest and are confronted with a bear. The bodys natural fight-or-flight response results in adrenaline and cortisol being pumped into your blood stream to help you fight harder and run faster.
The bodys stress response is beneficial to help you survive this potentially life-threatening encounter. However, this stress response is only appropriate and useful if you are actually in the woods with a bear. A problem occurs if the bear comes home with you every night, for example if you are a 5-year-old whose single working mother is struggling with alcoholism. This child experiences stress day after day and can become toxic stress.
Stress goes from being helpful and life-saving to unhelpful and life-damaging. Children are especially vulnerable to this repeated stress activation, as their brains and bodies are in a critical and sensitive period of development.
What Types of Stress Can My Child Have?
For more information on toxic stress, listen to our PediaCast.
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The Dangers Of Chronic Stress And Excess Cortisol
There are two main kinds of stress acute stress and chronic stress and, surprisingly, not all stress is bad for you.
Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the fight-or-flight response.
Once the threat has passed, your levels of stress hormones return to normal with no long-lasting effects.
Some degree of acute stress is even considered desirable as it primes your brain for peak performance.
Epinephrine ;and norepinephrine are;stress hormones produced on an as-needed basis in moments of extreme arousal.
They help you think and move fast in an emergency.
In the right situation, they;can save your life.
They dont;linger in the body, dissipating as quickly as they were;created.
Cortisol and Bad Stress
Cortisol, on the other hand, streams through your system all day long, and thats what makes it dangerous.
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Excess cortisol leads to a host of physical health problems including headaches, asthma, immune system dysfunction, weight gain, osteoporosis, digestive disorders, hormone imbalances, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
Cortisol also takes an equally high toll on your mental health;by changing the structure and function of your brain.
There Are Surprising Ways Stress Affects The Brain It’s Not Just Your Mind Your Brain Structure Is Actually Changing
It’s a fact that stress has become an everyday companion in our lives. But it comes in all sorts of ways. It can stem from work or school pressures, or it can involve relationships or money. No matter the origin, the truth is that all forms of stress have one thing in common, they affect the brain in surprising ways.
In every case, whenever the brain detects we are facing a potential threat, it triggers a series of chain reactions that involve both the mind and the body. Thus, it mobilizes to combat the threat in two ways: to address the problem or to avoid the problem . That is why, with the onset of stress, sometimes adrenaline makes an entrance as well. ;The brain then floods the body with the energy needed to fight or flee.
However, modern life no longer requires running from the large predators that our ancestors faced. Usually, our mental predators are behind a computer screen. But the brain still interprets that there is a threat, so physical symptoms such as headaches, chest pains, and in more severe cases anxiety, make their appearance.
It is well known that stress affects mental health. But scientific research has found that not only is it an adversary of the mind, it also affects the brain in surprising ways on a physical level.
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Stress Shrinks Your Brain
Chronic stress can measurably shrink your brain.
Cortisol can kill, shrink, and stop the generation of new neurons in the;hippocampus, the part of your brain that stores memories.
The hippocampus is critical for learning, memory and emotional regulation, as well as shutting off the stress response after a stressful event is over.;
Constant stress also shrinks the prefrontal cortex.
This negatively affects decision-making, working memory, and impulse control.
Stress Can Affect Your Memory
Studies have shown that “people with higher levels of cortisol have poorer memory than those in the same age bracket with less cortisol,”psychotherapist Ann Russo, LMSW, tells Bustle. So if you have ongoing stress, brain fog and other memory issues may not be far behind.
Studies have also shown how you view and handle stress can change the impact it has on your brain, Russo says. “Itâs important to try and reassess the situation in a more positive light,” she says. Instead, try to redirect those thoughts, be present and mindful, and work on ways to alleviate your stress, Russo says, by exercising, meditating, or even seeing a therapist to learn more positive coping skills.
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Effects Of Stress On Memory
The effects of stress on memory include interference with a person’s capacity to encodememory and the ability to retrieve information. During times of stress, the body reacts by secreting stress hormones into the bloodstream. Stress can cause acute and chronic changes in certain brain areas which can cause long-term damage. Over-secretion of stress hormones most frequently impairs long-term delayed recall memory, but can enhance short-term, immediate recall memory. This enhancement is particularly relative in emotional memory. In particular, the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and the amygdala are affected. One class of stress hormone responsible for negatively affecting long-term, delayed recall memory is the glucocorticoids , the most notable of which is cortisol. Glucocorticoids facilitate and impair the actions of stress in the brain memory process. Cortisol is a known biomarker for stress. Under normal circumstances, the hippocampus regulates the production of cortisol through negative feedback because it has many receptors that are sensitive to these stress hormones. However, an excess of cortisol can impair the ability of the hippocampus to both encode and recall memories. These stress hormones are also hindering the hippocampus from receiving enough energy by diverting glucose levels to surrounding muscles.
Common Chronic Pain Conditions And Their Association With Mental Health
Arthritis: Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints, which can cause disabling pain. There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis. The most common types include:
- Osteoarthritis : protective cartilage inside the joint breaks down, making movement more difficult and painful – throughout time, bones of the joint may rub directly together, causing severe pain.
- Rheumatoid arthritis : joints and organs are attacked by the bodys own immune system; ongoing inflammation breaks down the joints and damages it permanently.
- Psoriatic arthritis : the immune system attacks the body, causing inflammation and pain; joints, connective tissue, and the skin are all affected by PsA.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis which typically affects the hands, knees, hip, and spine. Osteoarthritis, however, has the ability to affect any joint and cause joint deformity and chronic disability.
Specific mood and anxiety disorders occur at higher rates among those with arthritis than those without arthritis.
Due to pain, limitation of movement, and impairment of the joints, osteoarthritis may reduce a persons ability to complete daily activities and can sometimes keep people from participating in social activities. The frustration with the inability to meet lifes demands and isolation from not being able to participate in social activities may lead to development of mental health conditions like depression, which can happen at any age. ;
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Suffering From Blindness Or Deafness
Brain tumors can also cause blurring of eyes or weakness of eyes. It is important to have a quick eye examination done so that these symptoms can be detected.; Or it may seem like you are hearing loss or deafness may be one of the possible symptoms of a brain tumor.
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What Causes Brain And Spinal Cord Tumors In Adults
Many different types of tumors can start in the brain or spinal cord. These different tumors are unlikely to all have the same causes, but they might share some things in common.
The cause of most brain and spinal cord tumors is not fully understood, and there are very few well-establishedrisk factors. But researchers have found some of the changes that occur in normal brain cells that may lead them to form brain tumors.
Normal human cells grow and function based mainly on the information in each cells DNA. Brain and spinal cord tumors, like other tumors, are caused by changes in the DNA inside cells. DNA is the chemical that makes up our genes, which control how our cells function. We usually look like our parents because they are the source of our DNA. But DNA affects more than how we look.
Some genes control when our cells grow, divide into new cells, and die:
- Certain genes that help cells grow, divide, and stay alive are called oncogenes.
- Genes that help keep cell division under control, repair mistakes in DNA, or make cells die at the right time are called tumor suppressor genes.
Cancers can be caused by DNAchanges that turn on oncogenes or turn off tumor suppressor genes. These gene changes can be inherited from a parent, but more often they happen during a persons lifetime.
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Definition Of Allostasis And Allostatic Load
In a changing social and physical environment, the brain and body respond physiologically and behaviorally in order to adapt. Physiologically, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, hypothalamicpituitaryadrenal axis, immune system and metabolic hormones and molecular processes within all organs, including the brain, operate non-linearly and promote adaptation via allostasis . But the same mediators have biphasic effects and can also promote pathophysiology when overused or when their activity is out of balance with each other . Adaptation and protection via allostasis and wear-and-tear on the body and brain via allostatic load/overload are the two contrasting sides of the physiology involved in responses of the individual during the challenges of daily life.
Mood Cognition And Behaviour
It is well established that chronic stress can lead to depression, which is a leading cause of disability worldwide. It is also a recurrent condition people who have experienced depression are at risk for future bouts of depression, particularly under stress.
There are many reasons for this, and they can be linked to changes in the brain. The reduced hippocampus that a persistent exposure to stress hormones and ongoing inflammation can cause is more commonly seen in depressed patients than in healthy people.
Chronic stress ultimately also changes the chemicals in the brain which modulate cognition and mood, including serotonin. Serotonin is important for mood regulation and wellbeing. In fact, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used to restore the functional activity of serotonin in the brain in people with depression.
Sleep and circadian rhythm disruption is a common feature in many psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, play a key modulatory role in sleep. Elevated cortisol levels can therefore interfere with our sleep. The restoration of sleep patterns and circadian rhythms may therefore provide a treatment approach for these conditions.
Depression can have huge consequences. Our own work has demonstrated that depression impairs cognition in both non-emotional domains, such as planning and problem-solving, and emotional and social areas, such as creating attentional bias to negative information.
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What Is The Biology Behind Stress
Stress is a biological response to things that happen to you. If you perceive a situation as stressful, the hypothalamus region of your brain begins the stress response. It starts by sending a message to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland then sends a message to the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are found on top of your kidneys. These glands then release the stress hormone cortisol.
During the stress response, your breathing and heart rate increase and your blood pressure goes up. With the help of cortisol, your liver will break down molecules and release more sugar into the blood. An increase in blood sugar level provides more energy for the body. This is critical for the fight or flight response. The increase in energy helps you to escape from or deal with a stressful situation. It also helps the body to return to a normal state afterward.;
Did you know?
During the stress response, some of your other body systems are less active. This includes your immune system and your digestive system. This is why you dont feel hungry during a stressful situation.;
It is possible for people to adapt to moderate levels of stress over time. If you experience a stressful event over and over, the prefrontal cortex, or the command centre of the brain, recognizes the stressor and tells your hypothalamus that stress response is meant to be short-lived. Experiencing repeated or long-term stress means that cortisol levels in the body stay high.;
Prevalence Of Mental Health Conditions In Those With Chronic Pain
Chronic pain, one of the most common reasons adults seek medical care, has been linked to activity limitations, dependence on opioids, anxiety and depression, and reduced quality of life.
Research shows that those with chronic pain are four times more likely to have depression or anxiety than those who are pain-free.
In 2016, approximately 20 percent of U.S. adults had chronic pain , and eight percent of U.S. adults had high-impact chronic pain.
High-impact chronic pain is pain that has lasted three months or longer and is accompanied by at least one major activity restriction, such as being unable to work outside the home, go to school, or do household chores. These people report more severe pain, more mental health problems and cognitive impairments, more difficulty taking care of themselves, and higher health care use than those who have chronic pain without these activity restrictions.
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Video: Basics Of Farm Stress
All of these outcomes and impacts of short-term stress have been known for decades.;;But, perhaps the more critical concern is the impact of chronic stress on our ability to think clearly and make good decisions.;;Stress hormones have a negative impact on the part of our brain that we need for:
- Evaluating alternatives and making good business decisions
- Having productive and thoughtful conversations with our family members, community members and others whose help we might need as we move forward during challenging times
These physical health, brain function, and decision making impairments often create a vicious cycle. When we find it difficult to make well-thought-through decisions and to move forward, sometimes this can lead to; choices that might have less than desirable outcomes. A poorly contemplated decision can cause even more stress which further fuels this response. This cycle can lead to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and other concerns, which then in turn may also be connected to depression and the risk of suicide. Fortunately, all these changes that occur under high stress can be managed and reversed, though it takes multiple tactics and strategies to tackle the issue holistically.
What You Should Know About How Stress Shapes The Brain
Christy Matta M.A. is a trainer, consultant and writer. She is the author of The Stress Response: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Free…Read More
Daily hassles, poor lighting, health problems, unwanted changes in a relationship, work pressure, all of these can trigger stress. Acute stress, that is stress that is immediate, triggers a cascade of physiological reactions in the body that are all essentially designed to give us the extra energy and strength to respond to the stressor.
This stress-response can save our lives if we need to escape from a burning building or react quickly to an oncoming car. But, when stress is chronic, the emotional and physiological impact on the body can be devastating.
And stress affects not only our emotional and physical well-being, it also affects how our brains function. Humans are not alone in their stress-response. Researchers often look at animals to better understand the wide range of changes that occur in our bodies and brains when under stress.
Researchers have found that when animals are exposed to prolonged stress they develop physical and mental problems including, high blood pressure , loss of appetite, weight loss, muscle wasting, gastrointestinal ulcers, loss of reproductive function, suppression of the immune system, and depression. These are the same physical and mental problems stress contributes to in humans.
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