subconscious minds, which operate on feelings, reacts the same way to any perceived
threat, whether it be a verbal one or a physical in origin. Experiencing some stress
or challenges can be actually beneficial as it can help us to exert more
effort, physically and mentally.
The problem arises
when the stress responses are repeatedly triggered and there is no
corresponding ‘fight or flight’ reaction to utilize and dissipate the released
stress hormones. If this happens the body and mind remain in a state of
agitation and this is when we feel anxiety and stress.
scenario is recurring and ongoing, the stress can become chronic and when
stress and anxiety reaches the chronic stage an individual can expect to suffer
from its deleterious consequences. So, while incidences of stress can be
beneficial, when they occur repeatedly with no resolution the results can also
become long-lasting and harmful to a person’s overall health.
How Stress Impacts the Brain
In order to
understand how stress changes the brain, we must first understand how our
body’s limbic system functions. The limbic system consists of the hippocampus,
cingulate cortex and amygdala. Experts refer to the limbic system as the
“anxiety” switch. This is where the emotions and drives are regulated. A
human’s desire for food, desire to be the best, to be loved, to be appreciated
and to be special are all being controlled by the limbic system. It is also the reservoir of other emotions
such as fear, pain, anger, happiness and pleasure.
individual experiences an incident or behavior that thwarts their effort to
achieve pleasure or fulfill their desire, the limbic system also works to help prevent
them from experiencing pain or sadness, then and in the future.
It does so
by repressing negative feelings relating to the current incident while
encouraging the individual to repeat those acts that promote pleasurable
feelings and to avoid those that incur emotional pain. People who are
successful in coping with their negative feelings are those whose limbic system
is functioning at its best. It enables them to react to stress well.
When Stress Harms the Limbic System
there are often times when a person’s limbic system is compromised, which will
more likely to happen if the body is constantly barraged with highly stressful
events. Once the limbic system is compromised, a misfiring of neurotransmitters
in the brain can occur.
inappropriate responses to stressful events will manifest as a result of
distorted reactions and damaged sensory perceptions that are taking place
inside the brain. Unfortunately, if these distorted patterns of responses
become chronic, the person’s endocrine, immunological and neurological systems
will also experience some abnormalities. In short, anxiety or depression will
now start to develop.
studies indicate that stress develops into anxiety due to the following
Inability to cope well
inability to deal with life’s pressing issues can cause stress. Prolonged
exposure to these adverse situations may lead to the development of a chronic
condition if one has poor coping mechanisms. If left unchecked, chronic stress may
later develop into an anxiety disorder.
If a person continually
relies on alcohol to be able to get through tough situations, they will
eventually diminish their ability to properly cope with stress. This is because
alcohol only serves to numb the reactions to stress and if this becomes
habitual the mind will become dependent on this process of numbing. This will
then make a person more inclined to lose their natural ability to cope with
stress, thereby paving the way for the onset of anxiety disorder.
individual is battling with highly stressful issues in life for an extended
period of time, there is an increasing risk that their mind and body will
experience changes that could adversely impact the proper functioning of
neurotransmitter hormones. In other words, the body will become less capable of
producing the required brain chemicals and other hormones, at the right time
and in the right amounts. When this occurs, physical and mental problems that
contribute to the development of anxiety disorder will become more prominent.
constant bouts of stress will often lead to negative thoughts which ruminate in
the mind day and night and increase a person’s risk of suffering from anxiety
agree that persistent stressful thoughts can cause significant changes in a
person’s brain chemistry and overall health, even if not accompanied by
external events. Unfortunately, these changes can also further diminish the
ability to cope with traumatic events and other stressful issues in the future.
post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition experienced by a person who has
experienced a traumatic event or events that caused extreme stress. The
experienced is too much for them to contain or overcome at the time of the
incidents. The profound impact of this stress and its subsequent triggers was powerful
enough to trigger the development of an extreme anxiety disorder.