We Didn’t Expect These 4 Ways in Which Stress Affects Our Brain

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We experience stress every day. It can be caused by many things, including money, family problems or other relationship issues, and when we experience stress both the body and mind are activated and then there are two outcomes- fight or flight, or said more simply- facing the situation head on, or avoiding the problem. Any of the outcomes can lead to headaches and other physical problems, but it can also lead to mental and behavioral changes, sadness, anxiety, inability to sleep, etc. However, stress can have other, more serious effects on our mind that you might not have known about.

1. Chronic stress puts you at risk of mental illness

Chronic stress can actually cause long-term changes in your brain, as a study from Molecular Psychiatry suggests. It leads people into a state of constant mood changing and anxiety that can last for years. Studies conducted by the team of researchers at the University of California showed that constant stress aids the production of more cells which produce myelin  On the other hand, it disrupts the production of neurons. These changes can create problems in balance and communication, but also lead to a number of emotional disorders, including depression.

2. Brain structure changes as well


Researchers from the University of California- Berkeley discovered that constant stress can cause permanent brain structure changes. This happens because the excessive production of myelin caused by chronic stress disrupts the balance between white and gray brain matter, which can lead to long lasting changes in the brain structure. Daniela Kaufer, a psychologist and lead researcher from the mentioned study says that different kinds of stress affect the brain in different ways. For instance, good stress that helps you face the challenges better impacts your brain positively, while bad, chronic stress can cause serious problems and make you susceptible to mental diseases.

3. Too much stress kills brain cells

Even one single very stressful situation can cause new neurons from the brain’s hippocampus to die, according to a study conducted at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. The hippocampus is the place where new brain cells are formed and is linked with memory, emotions and the ability to learn. The mentioned research involved young and old rats caged together for 20 minutes. The older rats were aggressive towards the younger ones. Once they were taken out of the cage, experiments showed that the rats that were under stress had six time higher cortisol levels than those who weren’t. These stressed rats also had a reduction of the number of nerve cells within a week.

4. Stress can affect your memory

If you’ve realized that some stressful events are hard to remember, it probably had an effect on your memory. The stress doesn’t have to be strong to make these changes, stress of any intensity can carry negative consequences.  A study conducted in 2014 found that raised cortisol levels can cause short term memory declines. The examinations were done on rats.  How much the stress affects your memory can depend on various aspects, one of which is time. Studies have showed that if stress happens before learning, the process can be more successful and memory is improved, while stress after learning can cause you not to be able to retrieve your memory.

There are a number of other ways in which stress affects our brain, the included being the most serious. Hopefully you realized that stress is very dangerous for your body and mind, and you will try to avoid it as much as possible.