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Stress, Depression Rewires the Brain

Most understand the profound emotional links between stress and depression, and that one usually leads to the other. However, recent developments in brain imaging and neurology have shown stress can actually "rewire" the brain's emotional circuits, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. So depression becomes not just an emotional and psychological result, but a physiological one.

Stress is triggered by the amygdala part of our brains that takes over our emotions and affects our thinking when necessary, and it's supposed to shut down when the stressful event passes. Yet if someone is clinically depressed, the chemical imbalance in their brain often keeps the stress system active. Brain imaging scans show that victims of long-term stress actually fail to experience positive feelings in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain just behind the forehead that establishes and maintains emotions. In these brains rewired by stress, fear and dread then surge unchecked.

In nearly all the patients I see, stress is a key factor in their illnesses. Stress plays a major role in the immune system. And it can lead to negative effects on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels too.

Since you cannot eliminate stress, you can work to provide your body with tools to compensate for the bioelectrical short-circuiting that can cause serious disruption in many of your body's important systems. The key is not the stress itself but your body's ability to tolerate it.

I've found energy psychology tools, like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), can be very useful to battle the dual effects of stress and depression. A form of psychological acupressure, EFT is based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for more than 5,000 years, but without the invasiveness of needles. Review my free online manual to learn how to use this effective tool.

Charlotte Observer November 15, 2004

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