In addition to sleepless nights, chronic stress has now been found to have the ability to damage the brain.
A scientific review paper warns that people need to find ways to reduce chronic stress and anxiety in their lives or they may be at increased risk for developing depression and even dementia.
Led by the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences, the review examined brain areas impacted by chronic anxiety, fear and stress in animal and human studies that are already published.
The authors concluded that there is “extensive overlap” of the brain’s neurocircuitry in all three conditions, which may explain the link between chronic stress and the development of neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
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, said lead author Linda Mah.
The paper appears online in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry.