Stress has been recognized as an important risk factor for mental disorders like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. However, how does stress affect the brain?
The relationship between stress and brain is still being studied and the neurological mechanisms by which stress affects the brain are poorly understood. A study in 2020 reported that in a group of elderly individuals who had normal levels of stress, the presence of a small but significant amount of beta-endorphin, an amino acid precursor to morphine, was significantly associated with a lower risk of bipolar disorder. The presence of the hormone in the brain was related to an elevated blood pressure level and other changes in blood chemistry, such as increased sensitivity to the effects of the hormone on brain cells. The study suggested that stress may contribute to an imbalance in the activity of the brain’s chemicals and that beta-endorphin may help restore the chemical balance.
This study provides indirect evidence that stress may play some role in the etiology of certain mental disorders. However, it is too soon to conclude whether stress plays a role in the etiology of bipolar disorder.
Stress can also result in alterations in brain function. During stressful periods, people have elevated adrenaline and cortisol in the blood. These hormones activate the brain’s reward pathway and enhance the brain’s ability to experience pleasure and reward. However, in periods of low stress, the brain experiences decreased activity in the reward pathway and the brain’s natural painkiller system. This disruption in the brain’s reward system contributes to the development of many physical and mental health problems, including depression, substance abuse, and other disorders.
The link between stress and mental illness is particularly troubling in light of the fact that so many people in the United States suffer from these ailments. The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and bipolar disorder, two mental disorders that have been linked to high levels of stress. In addition to those who suffer from mental illnesses, high levels of stress in the workplace and at home are also associated with stress-related illnesses and disorders, including heart disease, asthma, and arthritis.
There is no doubt that stress has a significant effect on the brain. However, many of the links between stress and mental disorders are still poorly understood. More studies are needed to determine whether or not stress actually contributes to mental disorders or whether the presence of stress leads to mental disorders. Only when a full understanding of the role that stress plays in the brain is established will people be in a better position to combat the health hazards of stress. associated with stress.