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How Does Stress Affect The Brain

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The Differences Between Stress And Anxiety

How stress affects your brain – Madhumita Murgia

Lets take a look at the differences, as you may be putting stress and anxiety into the same basket, and it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. At first glance, anxiety does look a lot like stress. Experts explain that anxiety may occur as a result of undue stress. Stress certainly can make a person feel the same symptoms: sad, depressed, anxious, or fearful, which are the same as anxiety. However, the cause of the anxiety may not be apparent. Someone with anxiety may not know why they feel that way, whereas stress can be caused by many factors in the persons environment. Therefore, stress can be caused by external influences, while anxiety is an internal response.

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 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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Stress Lets Toxins Into Your Brain

Your brain is highly sensitive to toxins.

The blood-brain barrier consists of a group of highly specialized cells that act as your brains gatekeeper.

This semi-permeable filter protects the brain from harmful substances, while letting needed nutrients into the brain.

Chronic stress makes the blood-brain barrier more permeable, essentially making it leaky.

This lets undesirable substances pathogens, heavy metals, chemicals, and neurotoxins of all kinds enter the brain.

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Effects of Stress on Health

Here at StoneRidge Centers, we combine brain science with compassionate care. We know just how taxing anxiety can be on your brain. But we also know that with treatment and support, you can learn to manage anxiety. We created our mental health treatment program for that very reason.

Anxiety doesnt have to take over your life. You dont have to live in fear of the world or constantly worry about potential dangers. We can customize our comprehensive program to meet your needs. Contact us today at 928-583-7799 for a free and confidential conversation about managing your anxiety in a healthy way.


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More Susceptible To Mental Illness

An imbalance between white and gray matter can also play a role in the development of mental illness. The theory is that having excess myelin in certain areas of the brain interferes with the timing and balance of communication. It was also noted that chronic stress can negatively alter hippocampal function. The hippocampus is involved in memory, specifically spatial memory, memory consolidation, and memory transfer.

Mechanisms Of Stress Effects On The Immune System

Virtually nothing is known about the psychological pathways linking stressors with the immune system. Many theorists have argued that affect is a final common pathway for stressors , yet studies have enjoyed limited success in attempting to explain peoples immune responses to life experiences on the basis of their emotional states alone . Furthermore, many studies have focused on the immune effects of emotional valence , but the immune system may be even more closely linked to emotional arousal , especially during acute stressors . Finally, it is possible that emotion will prove to be relatively unimportant and that other mental processes such as motivational states or cognitive appraisals will prove to be the critical psychological mechanisms linking stress and the immune system .

Future studies could also benefit from a greater emphasis on behavior as a potential mechanism. This strategy has proven useful in studies of clinically depressed patients, in which decreased physical activity and psychomotor retardation , increased body mass , disturbed sleep , and cigarette smoking have been shown to explain some of the immune dysregulation evident in this population. There is already preliminary evidence, for instance, that sleep loss might be responsible for some of the immune system changes that accompany stressors .

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Ways Stress Affects Your Brain

The brain is a fascinating and complex organ. Its the primary control center for our whole body, and it can be affected by stress in many different ways. Stress itself is an important part of life it helps us prepare for danger or respond to emergencies. But when were constantly stressed out, thats when our brain starts to pay the price. This blog post will explore how stress affects your brain, both positively and negatively, so you can develop strategies to reduce your brains vulnerability to its harmful effects.

For starters, it is important to understand how our body processes stress. In the simplest terms, stress is basically the fight or flight response to a perceived threat. This activates the amygdala, or fear center of the brain, and causes a cascade of events. These include the production of the stress hormone cortisol, an increase in glucose levels, increased heart rate, and an increase in blood flow to the muscles in the arms and legs. After the threat has passed, then the body will eventually return to normal.

Stress Depletes Critical Neurotransmitters

How Stress Affects the Brain

Your brain cells communicate via chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Constant stress reduces the level of critical neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and dopamine.

Low levels of either of these neurotransmitters can leave you depressed and more prone to addictions.

Serotonin is dubbed the happy molecule.

It plays a large role in mood, learning, appetite control, and sleep.

Women low in serotonin are prone to depression, anxiety, and binge eating.

Men, on the other hand, are more prone to alcoholism, ADHD, and impulse control disorders.

Dopamine is known as the motivation molecule.

Its in charge of your pleasure-reward system.

Too little dopamine can leave you unfocused, unmotivated, lethargic, and depressed.

People low in this brain chemical often use caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and illicit drugs to temporarily boost their dopamine levels.

Not sure if your depression is related to serotonin or dopamine?

Serotonin-based depression is characterized by anxiety and irritability, while dopamine-based depression manifests as lethargy and lack of enjoyment of life.

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Stress Affects The Brains Defense

The brain possesses a natural barrier, aptly called the blood-brain barrier, which under normal circumstances prevents entry to questionable elements. These include toxins and the majority of pathogens that cause disease.

However, under the influence of cortisol, this barrier becomes much more lenient, allowing more and more unfavorable elements to enter into the brain. This is an extremely bad development and is only every beneficial when you actively need medication to cross the barrier that is not able to cross otherwise.

Stress Inhibits Growth Of New Brain Cells

Things would not have been so dire if following oxidative damage new cells were formed, but stress has a way of shutting down this mechanism of recovery as well. In particular is a protein named which stimulates the formation of new brain cells, and which is suppressed by cortisol. This speeds up aging and deterioration of the brain and can explain why some people experience significantly more cognitive issues under high stress.

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Ways To Protect Your Brain From Stress

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but minimizing stress and protecting your brain against its effects is easier than you might think.

Lifestyle Habits to Reduce Harmful Effects of Chronic Stress on the Brain

Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Stop free radical damage by eating a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate, and green tea.

Exercise Daily

Is All Stress Created Equal

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While the effect of stress on the brain is well documented, it’s less clear exactly what type of stress will prove damaging and raise the risk of memory problems later in life. Do brain problems occur when you are under a small amount of stress or only when you experience long-term stress?

“That’s a tough question, because stress is a broad term that is used to describe a lot of different things,” says Dr. Ressler. The stress you might experience before you take a test is likely very different from the stress of being involved in a car accident or from a prolonged illness. “Certainly, more stress is likely worse, and long-term stress is generally worse than short-term stress,” says Dr. Ressler.

But there are additional factors that make stress more harmful, he says. In particular:

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How Does Stress Affect The Brain The Truth Exposed

ByMichael Lee | Submitted On March 30, 2009

How does stress affect the brain? In order to find a definite answer to this question, it is important to understand how brain activity works and how it is altered with the presence of stressors.

The brain is one of the most vital organs in the body, since the human brain differentiates us from other creatures of the world. The ability to think, understand, and interpret information has rendered humans as the superior beings.

The brain is the center of human nervous system. Therefore, it is closely associated to any changes in your system, including stress. Experts have noted that people who undergo stress reduce their capacity for organization and memory.

Furthermore, studies are conducted to determine exactly what aspect of the brain is affected by stress to effectively cope with it.

Stress As Processed By The Brain

The human body is made up of a sophisticated system of chemical responses. When an individual experiences stress, it produces several chemical responses in the body.

Although stress is helpful during times of physical threat, the body responds similarly to psychological stress. Therefore, it is not healthy for an individual to undergo such levels of stress on a regular basis. However, this situation is unavoidable during today’s overstressed society.

How Does Stress Affect The Brain Functions?

Coping With Stress

Genes And Biology Are Not Destiny Turning Around Toxic Stress

Above all else, it is important to remember that biology and history are not destiny. Many of the effects of toxic stress can be reversed. The earlier toxic stress can be caught and met with a healthy response, the more effectively the healing from its effects. Relationships are key and healthy, supportive, stable ones have an extraordinary capacity to fortify people children and adults against the damaging effects of toxic stress. Its the power of human connection, and its profound.

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What Is Good Stress

Its similar to the certain amount of tension we experience before an exam that motivates us to put in our best efforts. For example, the kind of tension before giving an important presentation would make you go over and over whatever you are presenting so that you dont make a mistake.

On the other hand, given the current pandemic situation, there has been an increase in overall distress. There has been an increase in horrible visuals that we see on television, which makes us very frightened. In this situation, a persons brain is constantly stimulated and constantly in a state of distress. What then happens is the beginning of disequilibrium and a toppling over of the person into some type of psychiatric illness.

We have to remember that most of us are in a state of equilibrium, and we have certain things that balance us.

If there is a genetic component, for example, if somebody in the family has some kind of psychiatric illness or even physical illness, then the chances of them toppling over become much more than in the normal population.

Given the fact that about 20 to 25 percent of humankind is going to have a psychiatric illness, it is then not surprising that we find young adults, children, and the older generation having an increase in the kind of reactions in terms of psychiatric illness that are now being seen.

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While stress is bound to happen at some point during your life, there are many ways to help alleviate it, including:

  • Being physically active at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week
  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Drinking enough water
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Getting proper sleep

Although it may not be the biggest organ in our body, the brain is certainly the most important. It plays the center role in our daily thoughts and activities. Preserving it is crucial to living a happy and fulfilling life.

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Normal Development Of The Brain Across The Lifespan

To understand how traumatic stress occurring at different stages of the life cycle interacts with the developing brain, it is useful to review normal brain development. The normal human brain undergoes changes in structure and function across the lifespan from early childhood to late life. Understanding these normal developmental changes is critical for determining the difference between normal development and pathology, and how normal development and pathology interact.

Although the bulk of brain development occurs in utero, the brain continues to develop after birth. In the first 5 years of life there is an overall expansion of brain volume related to development of both gray matter and white matter structures however, from 7 to 17 years of age there is a progressive increase in white matter and decrease in gray matter while overall brain size stays the same.- Gray matter areas that undergo the greatest increases throughout this latter developmental epoch include frontal cortex and parietal cortex., Basal ganglia decrease in size, while corpus callosum,, hippocampus, and amygdala- appear to increase in size during childhood, although there may be developmental sex-laterality effects for some of these structures. Overall brain size is 10% larger in boys than girls during childhood.

Stress Effects On The Body

Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems.

Stress effects on the body.

Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on your body.

Musculoskeletal system

When the body is stressed, muscles tense up. Muscle tension is almost a reflex reaction to stressthe bodys way of guarding against injury and pain.

With sudden onset stress, the muscles tense up all at once, and then release their tension when the stress passes. causes the muscles in the body to be in a more or less constant state of guardedness. When muscles are taut and tense for long periods of time, this may trigger other reactions of the body and even promote stress-related disorders.

For example, both tension-type headache and migraine headache are associated with chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck and head. Musculoskeletal pain in the low back and upper extremities has also been linked to stress, especially job stress.

Relaxation techniques and other stress-relieving activities and therapies have been shown to effectively reduce muscle tension, decrease the incidence of certain stress-related disorders, such as headache, and increase a sense of well-being. For those who develop chronic pain conditions, stress-relieving activities have been shown to improve mood and daily function.

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How Stress Affects The Brain

The human mind consists of memory, language, thought process, subconsciousness, and consciousness. The mind controls how someone perceives a situation, as well as how the brain acts and reacts to external stimuli. The brain and the mind are closely intertwined but entirely different systems.

The brain, which is the central physical organ of the bodys nervous system, has three main parts: the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brainstem. When any of the five senses receive stimulation, the body gets the message. People do not internalize stimuli one at a time, but as a combination of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch working in unison.

Any stimulus presented to the brain causes stress, which is how it responds to demand. Most things felt, heard, or seen throughout the day causes no more reaction than the brains acknowledgment of the input.

For example, the sound of a co-worker opening a desk drawer is audible, but the brain immediately dismisses this input because no action needed. A co-worker opening a desk drawer in your office, however, would create more stress if you did not give them prior permission.

All input creates stress, but anything that requires a significant amount of action affects the brain negatively, especially sustained levels of this type of pressure. In a stressful situation, the amygdala alerts other areas of the brain to the presence of a stressor.

Dealing With Stress And A Brain Injury

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Stress after a brain injury can be even more challenging because your brain is now constantly under stress. Essentially, additional stress after a concussion is like adding insult to injury.

Stress can trigger post-concussion symptoms, especially if you arent managing your stress levels. Stress can make things like being overwhelmed, processing information, remembering things, and other symptoms worse. It is also an indicator that changes are needed to take better care of yourself and your brain, particularly because stress only adds to your symptoms.

Cognitive FX understands the stress your brain is experiencing. We can help alleviate that stress and provide you with a treatment plan to address and improve the stress on your brain. We want you to know that after injury things can get better and that your quality of life can improve. If you or someone you love is injured, we can help.

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