Long-term stress can cause depression and dementia: Study
July 26th, 2016
Filed under: Anxiety disorder, depression by Rachael

“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.”

-Jodi Picault

The above quote explains how anxiety and stress can create an upheaval in the mind of a person and gradually engulf his whole body, eventually making the body a house to many diseases. Any kind of situation can trigger pressure, though an individual may not realize that he is under clinical stress that needs proper treatment. At times, harping on previous experiences – both good and bad – may also result in unrelenting emotions of turmoil and suffering related to anxiety.

It is common for people to experience some amount of stress while embarking on a new venture or giving a public performance, but when this stress becomes a part of one’s life, it can lead to innumerable problems. The brain is the part of the body that gets affected the most by stress.

Scholars from the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences recently studied the areas of the brain that are badly affected by feelings of anxiousness, agitation and emotional turmoil.  

Anxiety, stress associated with impaired functioning of brain

In the study – titled “Can anxiety damage the brain?” – the authors noticed an “extensive overlap” of the neurocircuitry during anxiety, fear and stress. Published online in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry in January 2016, the study suggested that these changes may help describe how long-term stress may give rise to neuropsychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Stressing on the findings of the study, lead author Dr. Linda Mah, clinician scientist with Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, said, “Pathological anxiety and chronic stress are associated with structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia.”

For research purposes, the authors of the study observed the impact of fear and anxiety on parts of the brain such as the amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in response  to extreme stress. In a previous study done in 2014, Mah had observed that chronic anxiety can transform a subtle cognitive impairment into a full-blown Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

The authors of the study, while demonstrating the impact of stress on the brain, reiterated that the negative effect of stress on the brain can be reversed with proper treatments, such as antidepressant medications and physical activity. To this, Mah added, “Looking to the future, we need to do more work to determine whether interventions, such as exercise, mindfulness training and cognitive behavioral therapy, can not only reduce stress but decrease the risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders.”

The researchers believed that it is utmost important to find ways to manage stress effectively, especially at work places where people find it difficult to cope with stressful situations.

Road to recovery

As extreme stress can cause a myriad of physiological and psychological disorders, it is necessary for people to look for ways to reduce stress, lest they may be at a risk of suffering from depressive disorders and anxiety, culminating in dementia.

If you or your loved one is suffering from an anxiety disorder, contact the Anxiety Treatment Advisors of Colorado to connect you to the best anxiety treatment advisors in Colorado. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-891-2539 or chat online to get connected to one of the most effective anxiety treatment centers in Colorado.


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