How Stress and Anxiety Affect the Brain

in health •  last year

                        

Fear and anxiety are a natural response to danger; it could be the danger we see, the ones we hear about or the ones born out of our imagination.  A little fear is necessary to protect us from harm because it causes the hypothalamus to activate the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system, which combine their effects to produce the fight-or-flight response.  This reaction speeds up the body, increases glucose levels, energizes the muscles and temporarily shuts down some non-essential systems to focus all the body’s energy towards producing an emergency response.   

From the quick batting of the eyelids when a sharp object gets close to the eyes to the pounding of the heart and appearance of goosebumps all over the body when we are scared, we all naturally respond to frightful external stimuli.  When the extent of fear is in tandem with the degree of danger the body produces a reasonable response but excessive fear can cause serious psychological problems which sometimes can lead to mental health challenges referred to as an anxiety disorder.  

Amygdala and Hippocampus  

Many parts of the brain are involved in responding to fear but the amygdala is the central processing unit of fear.  It is an almond-shaped brain region made up of a bundle of neurons.  It is found on top of the brain stem and lies deep inside each medial temporal lobe.  It detects potential danger and sends a signal to other parts of the brain to alert and prepare them for a response.  Scientists discovered this effect of the amygdala when they performed some tests on monkeys with a diseased or damaged amygdalas.  They found out that those monkeys did not react when predators attacked them.  

                        

In the human brain, the Hippocampus is the seat of learning and memory it recalls memories and links them to present stimuli.  In Post Traumatic Stress Disease (PTSD) the hippocampus brings back to memory images from previous traumatizing experiences and keeps the person in a constant state of fear and paranoia.  They constantly have flashbacks of the life-threatening events and get upset whenever they are faced with traumatic reminders.   

Fear, chronic stress and PTSD can damage the brain.  They cause a long-term change in the structure and function of the brain.  These ultimately result in a disparity between the volume of white and gray matter, anxiety and mood disorders, and learning difficulties.           

       

  Low Serotonin in Women Makes Them Prone to Anxiety   

Serotonin, scientifically known as 5-hydoxytryptamin, is a neurotransmitter which modulates the activities of the amygdala.  It calms the amygdala and reduces the way it reacts to fear.  Studies have shown that people with overexpression of serotonin or an increased number of serotonin transporters show less response to fear.  Naturally, the concentration of serotonin in women is lower than that expressed in males.  This reduced serotonin level is the reason why women are more likely to get frightened than men.  

What does Stress, Fear or Anxiety Do to the Brain?  

Chronic stress causes steep changes in the structure and functions of the brain, and can lead to the following;  

  • Learning deficiency           
  • Memory Loss           
  • Increased risk of having stroke           
  • Depression           
  • Reduced brain size          
  • Hormonal imbalance, osteoporosis, and heart problems, caused by excessive cortisol.     

How to Cope with Stress and feel better

 According to experts the brain can naturally recover from the effect of stress.  The following can help you to handle stress and recover gradually:

  • Regular exercise helps reduce the release of stress hormones.  
  • Meditation is a vital tool that can help you take control of your mind.  
  • A good sleep helps calm the nerves and control the release and effects of stress hormones.  
  • Eating healthy meals nourishes the body and mind.   
  • Medical therapy helps people get over PTSD  

Fear is dangerous and can affect our health in more ways than we can imagine so we need to guide our minds carefully, avoid dangerous situations as much as possible and surround ourselves with pleasant people and memories which will stop us from reliving our past traumatic experiences. 


Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181681/ http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_04/d_04_cr/d_04_cr_peu/d_04_cr_peu.html https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3595162/

I hope you enjoyed.  Please Upvote, Resteem, and Follow me @road2wisdom

  


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This
"Fear, chronic stress and PTSD can damage the brain. They cause a long-term change in the structure and function of the brain. These ultimately result in a disparity between the volume of white and gray matter, anxiety and mood disorders, and learning difficulties. "

Why therapy and/or mediatation is important.

Thank you for sharing.

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YW @snekgeekz thank you :)

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Well I'm screwed then. I do practice Yoga and get acupuncture though.

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lol you will be fine! Yoga is great for the body and mind.

Interesting. I try to keep that mind when my kids are under stress and start making bad choices.

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HEE I know what you mean :)

I agree with all this. Anxiety is no fun. I hope you are feeling better. Lots going on these days.
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One of the things I miss about living in Chinatown. Weekend mornings I would walk past the big open yard with the big tree. All along the sidewalk were women, mostly little old ladies. They would be following someone, or just maybe knew the routine like breathing. But they would all be doing little excercises and tai chi warm ups to move their joints. If I stood too close for just a moment too long, one would always approach me with a smile, take my arms or legs and start me moving the way that everyone else was. It was a simple touch, a smile, and some movement. I will always remember. A simple touch, a smile, and some movement.

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I passed out last night from my back pain! But I'm feeling better today🙂 was that China town in NYC or Cali?
That was beautifully put@jacobts
As humans we need those beautiful interactions. 💯😀

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La ciudad de los ángeles

https://goo.gl/maps/Hi3D1Fiheo52

1de26f0c58e19fb2ade41674e5ebeac6.jpg
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pigeon pose. plow. child's pose. breathe.
hope you are feeling better and rested today. :)

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Gracias have you been to NYC?
Thanks I will do those later :)

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Are you okay? I have back pain too from a auto accident. I hope you're feeling better.

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Yes, I am starting to feel better thank you for asking.

This post received a 1.8% upvote from @randowhale thanks to @road2wisdom! For more information, click here!

Great read Dimitre! Resteemed :)

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Thanks It's Sheryl by the way keep reading up to the next intro haha @introducingmo
Ciao Followed :)

The age we live in allows us to understand the brain in a much deeper and complex way, more then we've ever been able to in the past.

It's been shown that those who grow up in more stressful and anxiety filled environments develop weaker grey matter, unfortunately. This could be directly correlated to the cycle of poverty and crime that so many people unfortunately find themselves in.

Always enjoy your write ups @road2wisdom : ). Also, part one is out Here if you still want to participate : )

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Thanks @iamjustinscott :) I will take a look thanks :))

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Of course, and I know you expressed interest so want to make sure you were aware : )

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It's been shown that those who grow up in more stressful and anxiety filled environments develop weaker grey matter, unfortunately. This could be directly correlated to the cycle of poverty and crime that so many people unfortunately find themselves in.

Tell that to the conservatives!

This is a good share, many doesn't know how powerful fear is. The reason people fear in my opinion is because they don't know much about the thing they fear. Acquire knowledge aka wisdom in all aspects of life should dramatically reduce your fears, cheers!

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Thank you @arcaneinfo I like your name :)

This article paints a real picture of long terms effects from stress. This is something I'm really trying to avoid or control more as i get older...I don't have that many brain cells left to protect lol

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LOL you are doing fine @myroadtours :)

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I trust your opinion :)

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haha well thank you!

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Exercise and healthy eating are really the first things you should do, as mentioned in the article. Too many people try to control mental afflictions mentally, for example with meditation. Meditation helps, but for amateurs like us it's only 10% to quote one book's title. Exercise and healthy eating will do much more than that, and it's something you can direct conscious effort to.

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Agreed. I actually feel better after exercising...almost like a high or rush.

5-HT crashes in the brain for women after the menopause, so that explains the old crone ill tempered behaviour that we see in public on a daily basis! LOL!

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Interesting info @mindhunter

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I remember my mom getting hot flashes

TYPO ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Chat messages await whilst I take care of this :)

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flashes or flushes? Hash says it's sfw !

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;0)

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He started it! 😳

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😂

I have seen my wrong doing and edited accordingly 😊

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Thank you @abh12345 I appreciate it very much :)

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enjoy the rest of your day :)

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Fixed!

Congratulations! This post has been upvoted from the communal account, @minnowsupport, by road2wisdom from the Minnow Support Project. It's a witness project run by aggroed, ausbitbank, teamsteem, theprophet0, and someguy123. The goal is to help Steemit grow by supporting Minnows and creating a social network. Please find us in the Peace, Abundance, and Liberty Network (PALnet) Discord Channel. It's a completely public and open space to all members of the Steemit community who voluntarily choose to be there.

If you like what we're doing please upvote this comment so we can continue to build the community account that's supporting all members.

I experienced depersonalization when I was finishing my final year at the university. At first I didn't know what was going on with me. I went to the doctors telling them that I feel disoriented, they done all sorts of test and found out that I am fine. I even did a test of my middle ear. I've found the answer on the internet, and for those who don't know what it is, basically its an anxiety disorder. It manifests as a feeling of being detached from the world, emotional numbness, perception of not being real and that others and the world isn't as well. After figuring out what it was, an anxiety disorder, I've started to question what am I anxious about. The answer was that I was scared of life, and the uncertainty of my future, as I found myself not being able to cope with the challenges that were before me - providing for myself, managing to figure out what I want to do with my life etc.
I have successfully combated the disorder with meditation, exercise, psilocybin mushrooms, and finding the solution for my problems that caused the anxiety in the first place.
I was lucky, some people get stuck in that for life!
That's how anxiety effected my brain, and I was the most deep profound experience in my life, that made me a stronger, more authentic self.
P.S if you are interested in this watch the movie Numb with Matthew Perry

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I have watched numb, Yes you were lucky I have a friend with social anxiety and she has a hard time doing anything. but with age she has gotten better thanks for sharing.

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Although I am not an expert in this topic there is one thing I am pretty sure when it comes to anxiety. Its all about deep down inside we doubt our self's about something, and social anxiety is the same - she probably views her self as less worth than other people, and that feeling of shame about herself prevents her from connecting with other people. You can only relate and connect with others when you are opened up, and live like there is nothing that can harm you.

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It's strange that you experienced depersonalization without, apparently, any of the other symptoms often associated with anxiety, and that you had to go to the doctor to realize it was anxiety. When I experienced depersonalization, I was having panic attacks. The other symptoms of the panic attacks took center stage, and depersonalization lasted only for seconds at a time, and it was an extremely strange feeling, reminded me of the out-of-body experiences I had heard people describe in books and movies.

I also want to note that 'blaming the victim', so to speak, does more harm than good. I was told by many people, including doctors, to 'get a grip of myself'. I told them, "that's like saying to a person with amputated legs that he should grab himself by the shirt and pull himself up". Impossible. My life was fine - at least nothing our of the ordinary was going on, things were neither good nor bad, just normal - and that's when the panic attacks happened. I've had much worse things happen to me, and the panic attacks were nowhere to be found in those cases.

My point is, from my own experience, this is clearly a brain thing. A psychiatrist recommended benzodiazepines and I improved immediately. I don't like pills, so I gradually lessened the doses, and kicked the meds after a few months. I began to exercise and eat well, and I've been fine to this day.

I just worry that when you look for the source of the anxiety in the person who's experiencing the anxiety, you're just adding to his anxiety. You may be right, of course, factually, for some people, but in my case the reason for the anxiety I believe was purely biological, or external, but had nothing to do with my internal thought processes.

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Hey man first of all thanks for sharing. I had panic attacks they were triggers to my depersonalization becoming chronic - first mayor panic attack I had when my uncle said to me that he is going to hang himself after my grandmother dies, and the second one was after smoking marihuana one day. I am 100% sure that all anxiety comes within, and that external factor only serve as a trigger.

An interesting topic. Thanks for posting :)

Really informative, thanks for this article...

Great information and presentation. I'm lucky to have avoided ptsd and anxiety in my life.

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Thanks @akrid glad you are fine too :)

This is good to keep in mind as prevention of feeling bad.

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Thank you

Your posts just keep getting better and better keep up the great work.

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Excellent post thanks for sharing

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Much appreciated :)

Very informative. I've suffered from PTSD since my abusive marriage. I can vouch for some of your suggestions. Great post.

Great post! thank you

Anxiety is my BIGGEST annoyance right now, it has to do with performance, i always feel like.... im not doing "enough", im afraid of not being productive and it drives me crazy just sitting around or trying to 'relax' which then causes me to get even more anxious haha

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yeah I get like that too! Then I remember to slow down and pace myself. thanks for sharing
:)

5-HTP Helped me off antidepressants, I owe this serotonin precursor a lot.

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Yes it's a great mood enhancer. Like you said it's a neurotransmitter serotonin precursor. A little 5-htp is great. 🙂

Meditation can work wonders for the brain.. Just saying :P

Thanks for the content @RoadToWisdom :) And again, you're looking beautiful in this pic of you!

I gave you a follow :) Let me know what you think of my posts. I am very interested to hear you opinion!

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Thanks, you are doing well for being new keep up the great work and steem on. :)

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Thanks! Did you notice anything I should improve on? Anything I should do differently? Thanks for being awesome :)

cortisol also has the abilty to break down muscle tissue , great article

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Yasou @routekas, Cortisol does break down tissue you are correct, thanks, I'll be over in Greece In August xia tis Panagias hopefully :)

A very factual and interesting post that is beautifully presented ! Easy upvote ) @road2wisdom !!

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Thank you @gomeravibz I appreciate it🌞 You work is great too 💯😃

This post has received a 9.98 % upvote from @booster thanks to: @road2wisdom.

Your article is Informative and easy to read; sometimes when people are trying do to their own research they sometimes get lost in a sea of complicated language. Upvoted, resteemed and following. If you'd like a good metaphorical read on the same topic. Here is a link to an article I wrote. Much success to you.

https://steemit.com/depression/@tammierain/imagine-understanding-depression-ptsd-and-thoughts-of-suicide

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Thank you and I wish you success too:)

After spending many years as a psychotherapist, mostly dealing with extreme behaviours, and teaching for the last 8 years, I quite often come across lots of posts (granted they were all on other much lesser social media sites, which I no longer frequent) by people professing to have some sort of knowledge of what actually goes on inside the mind, especially when it comes to anxiety. Happily this was in a different league to most of them. It's actually very complicated, and there's whole books you can write on the subject, but for a basic introduction, this was pretty damn good. Upvoted, and followed you, and thanks for a great post.

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Thanks @anarcotech I appreciate the kind words especially coming from a professional like you. I followed you back Thank you and have a great weekend.

This is valuable content. Thanks for the information. This post was very interesting to read. You are really good at writing and grabbing the readers attention. 😌

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Thank you @themessup for those kind words :)