The Stressed-Out Brain

It has long been known that stress affects the human body in myriad ways. But we also now know that stress can actually re-wire our brains.

NEW YORK – Stress contributes to the onset of cardiovascular disease and depression, among other illnesses. And it is not only major stressful life events that exact a toll on our bodies; the many conflicts and demands of daily life elevate and sometimes disrupt the workings of our response systems for stress, causing wear and tear on the body and brain.

This burden of chronic stress, called “allostatic overload,” reflects not only the impact of life experiences but also our genetic constitution. Moreover, individual habits such as diet, exercise, the quality and quantity of sleep, and substance abuse also play a major role, as do early life experiences that set life-long patterns of behavior and physiological reactivity. 

There are three categories of stress: