Impact of stress – Part 2: Leads to pathological anxiety

Stress begets more stress. Many people often end up being chronically entangled with stress that may not seem to cease. Whatsoever may be the source of stress, almost everyone has to follow the same modus operandi for the alleviation of this problem.

Some scientists believe that the human beings are not capable of dealing with the constant exposure to stressful situations. As a result, severe levels of stress causes wear and tear on both the body and the mind. Moreover, chronic stress has been linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), diabetes, depression, increased cholesterol levels, deterioration of other body functions, etc.

The terms anxiety and stress are often interlinked with one another. In fact, many people tend to replace one with the other. However, a person who experiences one of the aforementioned problems may not be necessarily suffering from the other issue.

On one hand, stress, a natural reaction to mental and physical displacement caused by changes in the environment, is often thought to be triggered by a negative response to external stimuli, especially life-disruptive changes. However, it can also be seen as a reaction to positive changes. On the other hand, anxiety is the body’s response to stress that affects over 18 percent of the population in the United States.

The good news is that anxiety disorders are curable using talk therapy, medications or both. Specialized treatment clinics using these long-lasting treatments have been able to see effective outcomes in several cases of individuals suffering from anxiety disorders. While stress arises due to several distinct factors, anxiety often surges due to one particular stressful reason.

Moreover, anxiety is perceived more as a future-oriented mood and stress as a response to the current changes. The current article, as the second part of the series, discusses the discovery of two molecules that are associated with the triggering of severe anxiety within the brain.

Critical molecules triggering intense anxiety discovered

A study conducted on animal models to ascertain the interplay between the brain’s response to stress and any causation behind pathological anxiety related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was carried out by The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and published in the journal of Biological Psychiatry.

The researchers specifically looked at the workings of the stress-promoting (CRF) and stress-constraining (eCBs) mechanisms in the amygdala, a brain region that regulates emotional reactions. They primarily examined the endogenous cannabinoid (eCB) system that entails the molecules of natural lipids that affix to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain that are responsible for controlling the stress-mediating circuits by inhibiting the neurotransmitter release. This is a way to keep anxiety in check.

This circuit is also associated with keeping a check on anxiety. In addition, a peptide molecule called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), on the contrary to the stress-reducing trait of endocannabinoids, is known to trigger stress response and increase receptivity to anxiousness and stress over the course of time when triggered repeatedly.

The researchers found that a certain mutation in a gene called Crhr1 increases the signaling of CRF receptor. Following the use of behavioral, neurochemical and electrophysiological procedures, it was found that:

  • Increase in CRF signaling increased activity in anandamide clearance enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH).
  • Increased CRF was observed with reduction in anandamide levels in the amygdala.
  • Increased FAAH activity along with the reduction in anandamide signaling leads to a lowered performance of brain in controlling stress and anxiety.

“The results of our study may be useful, not only in understanding the neurobiological basis of alcoholism, anxiety and possibly PTSD, but also in developing more efficacious pharmacotherapies to treat these disorders,” said Roberto Ciccocioppo, University of Camerino, Italy.

Recovery road map

The impact of this study can further probe the interplay between high anxiety and alcoholism. Furthermore, the results of the study can assist in the understanding of PTSD, a condition that also exhibits high levels of anxiety that increases the propensity to drinking.

If you or your loved one is experiencing any symptoms of mental disorders, it is advisable you reach out for professional help. The Colorado Mental Health Help assists in accessing the best mental health rehab in Colorado that specializes in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-899-5063 or chat online with our medical representatives to know more about inpatient mental health treatment centers in Colorado available near you.

Read the other articles of the series “Impact of stress:”

Part 1: Increase risk of heart disease and stroke