We all know that are many varied reasons why people suffer from anxiety disorders and depression disorders. These reasons can include trauma, genetics and the environment. But one of those causes also include the lack of essential mood chemicals such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and oxytocin. Though, some researchers say that even the level of mood chemicals alone may not explain why some people live with anxiety and/or depression disorders. Part of it is brain’s structure as well.
In a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers studied 24 women who had a history of depression. It was found out that these women had hippocampus that was 9% to 13% smaller than women with no history of depression. When facing events that causes anxiety/stress, it reduces the production of new neurons (nerve cells) in the hippocampus (What Causes, 2010). The hippocampus is one of three segments of the brain that regulate feelings of reward as well of the development of love (Your Brain n.d.)
In addition to the hippocampus, the hypothalamus is another part of the brain that is responsible for the “flight or fight” part of your brain. In addition to that responsibility, it is responsible for producing hormones for body temperature, hunger, mood, release of hormones from many glands, especially the pituitary gland, sex drive, sleep, thirst and heart rate (Hypothalamus, 2015). Heck, even neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are produced here (Your Brain, n.d.). However in regards to anxiety disorders, the real problems lie in another segment of the part of the brain: the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for emotions, emotional behavior, and emotion (Limbic System, n.d.). In fact, this is where “fear conditioning” is produced. Fear conditioning is a type of classical conditioning in which people and animals learn to fear certain objects or situations. The idea behind this is if an animal or a human is shown with a harmless stimulus at the same time as a negative one, he will learn to fear the stimulus by itself (What is,). So how is this part of the brain able distinguish a stimulus? The amygdala is able to distinguish this through its dual sensory input system. It is connected to many parts of the brain; one of them includes the hypothalamus (Limbic System, n.d.).
So again referring to the hypothalamus, the hypothalamus contains hormones that respond to stress like corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) (Balestrieri, Bazzocchi, Bramibilla, Canalaz, Como, Crivellato, Meduri, Perini, Ragogna, Terlevic, Tognin, Travan, & Zuiani, 2013). The two hormones lead to the secretion of cortisol, the last and final hormone, which is found in adrenal gland (Balestrieri et al, 2013). Cortisol is responsible for its interference with learning and memory, lower immune function, bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure and cholesterol (Bergland, 2013). If you are in a stressful situation, your body goes into of course the “fight or flight response.” Cortisol “increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues” (Chronic, 2016). It also causes your body reduce certain functions that may be in a way in a fight or flight situation. It affects the immune system responses, and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes (Chronic, 2016). In addition to that, it “talks” to certain parts of your brain (e.g. amygdala) responsible for creating mood, motivation and fear (Chronic, 2016). So for someone like myself with generalized anxiety disorder who has experienced many stressful stimulus and has not known how to deal with them, even in the most harmless situations, I have way too much cortisol that is needed. That could also explain why I get really tired after I am stressed out, why I can have bad colds and why sometimes the period can be very painful. It all makes sense now…. Go figure.
When parts of the brain are in order, so are the hormones that regulate it. And when the hormones are in place, so are you and your everyday encounters. For example, anxiety and depression can be caused either due to low or unbalanced serotonin levels (The Biochemistry, n.d.). When serotonin levels are restored, anxiety can be reduced (The Biochemistry, n.d.). So when you take you antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), it helps to prevent those few serotonin from being reabsorbed in the nerve cells of the brain (Selective, 2015). An increase of oxycotin helps to bring about optimism, increase self-esteem, and build trust (10 Reasons, 2012). Even a hug can bring about more oxycotin, due to the bond an individual receive from another person. Norepienphrine can help restore energy and bring back anxiety and stress to a “normal” level” (The Biochemistry, n.d.).
In conclusion,love can make a body good. When you receive love, you want to be able to give back that love in return. There is just something reassuring to feel you are worth someone to some. Even for a moment of time, even from my experiences, your anxieties are put aside to comfort another individual.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
— Lao Tzu
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