Login with your Social Account

Researchers identify the physical effects of stress and anxiety on cells

Researchers identify the physical effects of stress and anxiety on cells

As per new research, a combination of stress and anxiety might physically change the makeup of the mitochondrial cells. In our lifetime, we often deal with events that leave a lasting impression on our minds. Major incidents such as losing a loved one, war, divorce can lead to anxiety disorders along with panic attacks. Anxiety disorder is different from normal worrying since it is prolonged and does not reduce with time. It can be bad for our emotional and physical health since it interferes with the normal daily activities making them difficult to perform. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are impacted by a combination of our genes and the environment resulting in an overall stressful life. It has been observed that not all people facing traumatic events develop anxiety disorder raising the question of what makes some persons respond differently than others. 

To find the answer, scientists studied mice that had displayed symptoms of depression and anxiety such as staying alone after facing highly stressful situations. Changes in the genetic activity were then tracked along with the production of protein in the area of the brain which deals with stress and anxiety. These areas are the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, and amygdala. The research team used the “cross-species multi-omics” technique for analyzing the genes and proteins that are associated with mitochondrial cells. They found many changes in the mitochondria of the mice’s brain cells who were exposed to stress as compared to those who were not. After that blood samples of the patients who had panic disorder were tested and scientists detected similar mitochondrial changes in them.

The researchers mentioned in PLOS Genetics that the studies revealed a regular convergence of differentially expressed pathways related to mitochondria in blood samples of patients dealing with a panic disorder after a panic attack. This method of cellular energy metabolism might be a way in which animals deal with stress. 

Mitochondria, also known as the powerhouse of cells turn the food consumed into 90 percent of the chemical energy needed for the functioning of the body along with destroying the rogue cells. Dealing with a high amount of stress can affect how the mitochondria function leading to complicated health symptoms. 

Iiris Hovatta, University of Helsinki said that right now there is very little information on the effects of chronic stress on cellular energy metabolism. So these underlying mechanisms might be essential to the prevention of diseases related to stress. Genetic studies of the persons suffering from anxiety might lead to informed treatment which is currently limited to psychotherapy and medicines. 

Journal Reference: PLOS Genetics

Mental Health in the 21st Century

Mental Health in the 21st Century

According to experts, more than 800,000 people commit suicide every year. This is a huge number and it is getting larger, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in the world for those from 15 to 29 years old. However, even though this number is startling, many are still afraid to take mental health seriously. Whether it is because of fear, stigma, embarrassment, or ignorance, people are just not getting it. Instead of treating mental illnesses, they are blaming it on behaviour or personality issues. 

Violence and Mental Health

What does this mean for future generations? Well, there may be less of them to worry about if the suicide rate continues on like it is. And it is not just about suicide. A large number of people suffering from mental health conditions end up hurting others before hurting themselves. What with all of the mass killings in the news recently, mental illness has jumped into position as one of the major hot topics. As many of those committing these crimes are being found to have mental illnesses, the public wants to know what we are going to do about it. 

Neurological Disorders

Mental health studies have been done to determine the cause of some of these mental conditions and have found that neurological disorders and brain injuries could be two of the problems. For example, Alzheimer’s disorder and Huntington’s disease have been determined to be caused by neurological damage. Whether it is a brain injury or a genetic flaw, these abnormalities can cause severe disability in many. Stroke is the second most common cause of mortality in older people and over 1/3rd of them who survive are disabled permanently. 

Breaking the Silence

While it is important to find a cure for these and other mental health disorders, it is even more important to get those with these disorders to acknowledge that they have them. Many with depression suffer in silence and self-medicate with drugs or alcohol while struggling to maintain a normal life. Those with anxiety disorders are trying to go about their lives without letting anyone know how stressed out they are, making them even more stressed out. These people are the ones who can end up having a breakdown of some kind and without treatment, may end up taking their own lives. 

The Cures Act

A new bill called the 21st Century Cures Act was introduced in 2016, which is focused on reforming mental health care. With new strategies addressing serious mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disorder and schizophrenia, the Cures Act includes the assertive community treatment (ACT) model. This provides a team of professionals who are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to expand outpatient treatment as well as inpatient care. Some of the other benefits include:

  • Paying for inpatient psychiatric care
  • Treating criminals with serious mental illness instead of incarcerating them
  • Reduces red tape that slows progress of scientific projects for cures
  • Identifies programs to promote innovation
  • Highlights the impact of disease and treatment on patient’s lives to get the FDA to evaluate new drugs
  • Enhances the impact of data
  • Advances the clinical research
  • Forces states to use at least 10% of their mental health grants to fund early intervention programs
  • Supports major fights for cures
  • Speeds up the initiation of research and new discoveries

Researchers are also noticing a connection between mental and physical health, which shows more of a need for mental health care in the United States as well. In the 20th century, life expectancy had increased due to better health care and advances in treatment for heart disease and cancer. However, by the end of the 20th century it was becoming obvious that even with the breakthrough treatments, physical health was being affected by mental health. Whether it be from suicide, secondary disease of the liver, heart, or lung from drug or alcohol use, or a comorbidity issue, mental health and physical health seem to go hand in hand.

New Mental Health Help

In the 21st century, we have seen a plethora of new mental health care progressions such as virtual reality headgear for phobias and other illnesses, mental health apps, new drugs and ways to use them, and online mental health care. 

Virtual Reality (VR) Headgear

In the past two decades, VR headgear has been used for exposure therapy to help those who have phobias. For example, those with acrophobia, which is the fear of heights, are being safely exposed to their fear with VR headgear to help them overcome those fears. This experience has been extremely successful and along with treatment from a therapist, patients have been able to overcome their phobias within just a few sessions. 

Mental Health Apps

The amount of mental health apps available to the public has gone from a dozen to thousands in the past decade and they are extremely popular. The choices vary from meditation apps such as Breathe2Relax, Headspace, and Smiling Mind to mood apps such as Happify, Mood Tools, and Mood Kit. There are even apps that teach cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) such as Anxiety Coach, iCBT, and Live OCD Free. The apps range from free to $19.99 per month, depending on the services they offer. For example, some of the apps provide instant access to a mental health professional so you can get help with anything whenever you need it. One of the main benefits of these apps is the anonymity they offer as people are still not completely comfortable talking about mental health care. 

Wearables and Other Technology

From wristbands and watches to high tech earrings, technology has jumped on the wearable bandwagon. It may have started with the smartwatch that tracked your moods but now it has transformed into mood sensors and bands that can read your emotions. For example, there are bands that you wear on your wrists that read your pulse and can tell how anxious you are by body temperature and even how much you sweat. There are also clip-ons that you wear that read your breathing and heart rate all day and keeps track of how your moods change. You can even get a headset that will train your brain how to respond to stress and other emotions. 

New Drugs

Medication is also being improved with technology. A new type of drug that just hit the research labs is potentially able to prevent neurons from dying with metabolism changes. This new medication can be used to treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and Huntington’s disease. The new nanotechnology is confirmed to be able to inhibit and prevent cell death and reduce brain infarctions while protecting neurons from plaques. 

Online Mental Health Care

The use of online mental health care has been going on for some time now and with online counselling platforms such as BetterHelp, individuals are able to talk to a licensed mental health care expert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. No appointment needed and you do not even have to leave your home to do it. This can be especially beneficial to those who have transportation or mobility issues, financial issues, or those with anxiety or other mental issues that make it difficult for them to go out. For example, those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who have had anxiety attacks from being in a crowded place will have a much easier time talking to a therapist from home on their cellphone or tablet. 

Easier and Cost-Efficient

Similarly, those with severe depression sometimes have trouble getting out of bed, let along making an appointment and going to see a therapist. With online therapy, there is no need to go out, you do not have to wait for an appointment, and you save money because the cost is just a fraction of what traditional therapy costs. Online therapy with BetterHelp is $40 to $70 per week compared to $200 to $400 per hour for traditional face to face counselling. The cost is so much lower because the expenses are lower for the therapists. They do not have to pay for an office, staff, or other office expenses and can see more patients since they are not bound to only seeing seven patients a day for one hour each. They can talk to as many patients as they want since they are not confined by appointments. 

Find What Works

Whether you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or have a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disorder or another neurological illness, there are many new treatments coming. And whether you choose to use the old traditional type of treatment or one of the new technological advancements, it is important to get the help you need when you need it. Contact a mental health care professional today to get treatment. With all of the advances in medical and mental health care, you are sure to be able to find what fits you best.