Stress can arise due to a demanding job, difficult employer, marriage problems, or inability to meet deadlines. When stressed, the body experiences high heart and breathing rates, in addition to chest tightness and depression. However, most of the time, these stressors are only temporary, and the body soon returns to a normal state.
However, if stress becomes a permanent part of life, it can significantly affect physical and mental health. This type of chronic stress, in addition to having detrimental effects on physical well-being, can seriously damage mental health.
Fortunately, getting help in Springfield, LA is close at hand. If you experience the effects of stress on the brain, contact Springfield Wellness Center today at 844.334.4727. We’re here to help your take control of your physical and mental health.
Understand the Science Behind Stress and Physical Changes in the Brain
There are two types of stress: acute and chronic. Regardless of the type, when you’re stressed, your body will release two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline prepares the body for an emergency by improving focus in high-stress situations. This hormone does not linger in the body, and its supply is discontinued after the emergency. Therefore, it does not cause any permanent effect on the body.
The second stress hormone, cortisol, acts differently. Once this hormone is released, it remains in the blood for a long time. Excessive cortisol levels in the blood have been linked to medical conditions like osteoporosis, weight gain, hormonal imbalance, digestive problems, diabetes, and even cancer. Additionally, cortisol can affect mental health by permanently damaging brain cells.
How Does Chronic Stress Change the Brain?
Physical changes, including the following, may occur in the brain in response to chronic stress:
Stress Kills Brain Cells
One of the effects of cortisol is the production of the neurotransmitter glutamate. In small doses, it is essential for brain functioning. However, it can become lethal to brain cells in excess quantities. More specifically, high levels of glutamate result in the generation of free radicals which punch holes in the brain cells, resulting in their death.
Stress Slows Down the Generation of New Brain Cells
Like all other cells in our body, brain cells die each day. However, they are simultaneously replaced with new ones, thanks to the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) protein. However, when the body is stressed, high cortisol levels slow down the activity of BDNF. Hence the formation of new brain cells is slowed down. Reduced levels of BDNF have also been linked to various neurological problems like schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
Stress Strengthens the Fear Center
Long-term stress strengthens the amygdala, or fear center, in the brain. It greatly increases the size, neuronal connections, and activity of this part of the brain. As a result, you become more fearful. What’s worse is that it is a vicious cycle. You feel frightened due to stress because increased activity in the amygdala causes increased fear.
Stress Can Shrink Your Brain
Research has shown that prolonged stress results in brain shrinkage in two regions: the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Stress slows the production of new cells in the hippocampus, or the part of the brain which stores memories. Similarly, the size of the prefrontal cortex also becomes considerably smaller due to this stress. This region is responsible for decision-making, working memory, and controlling impulses.
Stress Releases Toxins into the Brain
A blood-brain barrier in the nervous system prevents the entry of damaging materials and toxins into the body. Stress has been linked with an increase in the permeability of the brain, increasing the chances that harmful substances will enter.
Wellness Starts with Getting Help in Springfield, LA
Stress, when it goes unchecked and untreated, can cause serious damage to your physical and mental health. The good news is that there are ways in which you can reduce your stress and start living a happy life. Don’t let stress take control of you. Seek professional help today by calling Springfield Wellness Center at 844.334.4727 or visiting our website.