Chronic Social Stress Changes Your Brain

We all know that bullying and other stressful social situations can have lasting effects on a person, but a new study from New York’s Rockefeller University suggests that chronic social stress actually affects gene activity in the brain and may lead to physical changes that make people more prone to social anxiety disorders.

Brains of Bullied Mice

The researchers set up young test mice to be bullied by an older mouse--a natural reaction due to mice’s territoriality--in 10 different cages on 10 different days. When they examined the bullied mice’s brains, the researchers found increased activity in genes for hormone receptors that regulate the brain’s sensitivity to social stimuli. As a result, the mice’s brains had additional receptors that made parts of the brain more sensitive to vasopressin, a hormone involved in male to male aggression and other social interactions.

Long-term Effects

After the study was concluded, the bullied mice were allowed a day on their own with no bullying or stress. Despite this time to recuperate, the mice acted afraid when introduced to new mice, even though they were relatively friendly. It is thought that their extra hormone sensitivity caused them to feel afraid even when they were placed in situations should appear safe. The length of time this effects last is unknown, but it suggests that bullying may have a lasting impact that could make it difficult to form future relationships. As lead researcher Yoav Litvin noted, “Just as alcohol affects your liver, stress affects your brain.”

However, Litvin doesn’t consider this reason to despair. He points out that the brain systems in question are dynamic, and says, “What goes one way, usually can go the other way — although it may not be able to be totally reversed."

Photo: Pixabay

Anxiety Support Groups

More Articles

Children with difficulty breathing in their sleep—evidenced by snoring, mouth-breathing, or failing to breathe at all for several seconds—are up...

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, your doctor may have prescribed anxiety medication to help relieve your anxiety, but strong prescription...

An innovative new program from Drexel University takes advantage of today’s available technology to provide mental health treatment to more...

Psychology professionals often recommend their clients adopt a pet as part of their mental health treatment. Or, they might prescribe structured...

Tofranil is a brand name of the antidepressant medication imipramine. It is used primarily to treat major depression in adults and bed-wetting in...

More Articles

Stress plus Type A traits can boost one's risk of having a stroke, according to findings published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery...

Depression and anxiety are currently considered as separate disorders. Some people clearly have one or the other, but many people experience an...

While anxiety can be a disorder in itself, it is also known to be a symptom of a number of physical disorders and illnesses. Before beginning...

Aromatherapy for anxiety may be a useful natural remedy in helping ease symptoms. Aroma means a pleasant or agreeable odor arising from plants,...

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you may occasionally experience an anxiety attack.

An anxiety attack is described as a sudden...

Inderal, known generically as propranolol, is a beta blocker that has been in use since the 1960s. Like other beta blockers, it was developed to...

According to a study by Sonya Deschênes of Concordia University and colleagues at Ryerson University in Toronto, and published in Cognitive...

Agoraphobia is a disorder that develops when a person begins to avoid situations associated with anxiety. It arises from an anxiety condition that...

The antidepressant Nardil, in the class of antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), is also frequently prescribed as a...

Your friends and family tell you to relax and lighten up, and that you seem to be silent and sluggish lately. Are they right?. Are you really...

In the movie The Phenomenon, the main character (played by John Travolta) was under a tremendous amount of stress. He seemed to be at a breaking...

Postpartum depression can strike any new mother, no matter what her situation may be. Having a baby is one of the happiest moments in one's life....

As adults, we are well aware that our work environment has an effect on our mental health. When we're trying to do our jobs without the resources...

The expression "worried sick" caught on for a reason--it is not uncommon for anxiety to produce nausea as a symptom. Severe anxiety or fear cause...

By now, everyone knows that exercise improves health on many levels--including mental health as well as physical health. There have been a number...