Post traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is often the result of extensive periods of stress. These chronic levels of stress can lead to mental health problems in the long term. For many people, this manifests itself as anxiety, as well as other mood disorders, that show up as they age.
Stress signals overload
Stress signals overload
When the body undergoes a stressful situation - taking a test, giving a speech in front of class, being reprimanded by an employer, being stationed in a war zone as a member of the military, caring for a family member while also caring for all the other responsibilities in life - a certain chemical reaction occurs. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, are produced by the endocrine system while stress related hormones are produced by the sympathetic nervous system. These stress related hormones, such as norepinephrine and epinephrine, when combined with the stress hormones, are the same ones that trigger the flight or fight response.
Signs of stress reaction
Some signs of this flight or fight response are a pounding heart, sweaty palms, rapid breathing and excessive sweating. Not surprisingly, these are the same type of symptoms that a panic attack induces as well. Though this flight or fight response was crucial to the survival of the human species, today it is not needed as often. For many people, this type of response is triggered by stressors that they experience everyday.
Inflammation and the immune system
The influx of stress hormones is not the only the way the body is affected by stress. Inflammation and the immune system go hand in hand, and a person under stress shows a higher level of inflammation. This equates to a reduction in the ability of the immune system to fight off an array of illnesses.
Microglia, brain cells that are linked to the immune system, are important in a number of ways: they remove old cells, program cells for growth and provide a first defense against illness. When they are inflamed, the physical processes of the brain are slowed considerably, often resulting in memory loss and anxiety.
Too much white matter
While the human brain is made up of both gray matter and white matter, recent research has determined that those people who have too much white matter in their brains are more likely to exhibit symptoms of a mental illness. Because the balance between white and gray matter has been disrupted in the brain, there could be some lapses in the way the brain cells communicate with one another. This could lead to a malfunction in the brain, leading to behavioral or emotional issues.
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