Stress Hurts Your Brain
At work, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about addictions, trauma, violence, and mental health. And to be honest, it can be a really downer reading things like “Most violence against adult women is perpetrated by intimate partners” and “…past victimization increased the risk of a new rape incidence by a factor of seven and increased the risk of a new physical assault incidence by a factor of three,” and “…women who reported being raped in the preceding 12 month months averaged 2.9 rapes in the preceding 12 months…”1,2 all day long.
But the following sentence in a paper about the effects of stress on the brain that I was reading today made me smile:
Along with epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinepherine, glucocorticoids are essential for surviving acute physical stress (evading a predator, for example) but they may cause adverse effects when secretion is sustained such as when waiting to hear about a grant renewal.2, 3
Also making me smile in this paper were the use of the words: hippocampi (the plural of “hippocampus,” the structure in the brain that is involved in learning and memory) and Cushingoid (to describe people with Cushing’s syndrome, a disease in which individuals produce excessive amounts of glucocorticoids (a hormone we produce in response to stress).
Say them with me: Hippocampi. Cushingoid. Fun to say, right?
Oh yeah, and the moral of the story is stress hurts your brain. So chill out already. =)
1All three of these quotations are from: Najavits, L., Weiss, R. D., & Shaw, S. (1997). The link between substance abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder in women. American Journal on Addictions, 6(4), 273-283.
3Sapolsky, R.M. (1996). Why stress is bad for your brain. Science, 273, 749-750.