Basically, stress is the body's way of protecting itself from danger so that we stay focused, active, and always alert. Even so, this self-protection response is not easy to control by the brain and can cause mental stress in the long run. Severe stress is not only known as the cause of various degenerative diseases, but also affects how a person thinks and behaves - even triggering mental disorders.
What are the consequences of severe stress on brain function?
Severe stress can affect the structure of the brain that has the potential to trigger imbalances in brain material. This was found by a study in the brains of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which showed a change in the ratio of the portion of white matter to brain gray matter. Both of these materials are thought to come from the same cell but have different "tasks" and roles.
White matter is composed of myelin nerve sheaths that are useful for conveying information, while gray matter consists of neurons and glia which are useful in processing and storing information. PTSD is a condition in which sufferers experience severe stress due to past trauma. From the study, PTSD patients had more white brain material than their gray matter.
The small number of neurons when the brain experiences severe stress causes a decrease in the ability to process information so that communication between brain cells becomes disturbed and ineffective. On the other hand, the brain during stress also responds to fear faster than usual and causes a mechanism in the brain to calm itself to be disturbed.
The initial symptoms of mental disorders due to severe stress that need to be watched out
Today, severe stress conditions caused by social or work problems are considered normal. Although it does not always have a direct impact on physical health, but allowing the mind and body to suffocate stress has the potential to cause serious mental problems that are often not realized.
Severe stress affects mental health with different types of symptoms, including:
Changes in emotions
- Feel unhappy
- Anxious and agitated
- Sad and easily angry
- Feeling very burdened
- Feeling lonely but tend to isolate yourself
Changes in cognitive function
- Weak memory
- Difficulty concentrating
- It's difficult to communicate
- Difficult to make a decision
- Always negative thinking
- Always feel anxious and think about that anxiety
- Eat too much or too little
- Sleep too long or for too long
- Avoid interacting with other people
- Leave or delay work
- Smoking and consuming alcohol as a way of relaxation
- Looks nervous
- Frequently lie and find excuses
- Too defensive and suspicious of others
- Impulsive desires for shopping, gambling, free sex, etc.
The most dangerous thing about stress is when you are very used to dealing with stress. This causes our emotional state, mind and behavior to change without us knowing it. Recognizing stress based on initial symptoms is very important so we can handle it as early as possible.
What are some mental disorders that can be triggered by severe stress?
The release of stress hormone cortisol for a long time can also have a direct impact on the work of hormonal control in the brain and can trigger several mental health disorders. For example:
Depression can be triggered by waste products from the hormone cortisol which can make a person weak or calm. Excessive accumulation of residual products occurs due to severe stress that is not handled and eventually triggers depression. Depression is a condition of dark mood changes that occurs over a long period of time, in contrast to sadness or grieving that occurs occasionally and can disappear over time. Depression isolates the sufferer from life and social interaction, and tends to make him think of ending life.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by a mood change cycle from phase mania (very very happy) and depression (very very sad) that often changes in days, weeks, or months. These changes can be aggravated if the patient experiences severe stress getting longer or worse. During the depression phase, the sufferer feels sadness and adversity, but during the mania phase there is a drastic increase in mood where the sufferer feels super happy, hyperactive, and energetic. The mania phase is even more dangerous because bipolar sufferers tend to be impulsive, coupled with poor decision-making abilities. The symptoms of the phase of mania cause the sufferer to tend to act impulsively - doing dangerous things without thinking long about the consequences.
Anxiety disorders can be identified by the presence of symptoms of excessive anxiety such as fear, cannot be quiet, and sweating profusely. Serious anxiety disorders can also cause a person to experience unreasonable fears of doing things. Without good handling, the heavy stress you experience can turn into depression and trigger PTSD symptoms.
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