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Behavioral effects of stress

Video transcript
- [Voiceover] Okay, so current literature suggests that the two areas of our brain with the most glucocorticoid receptors are the hippocampus and the frontal cortex. This is the hippocampus, right here. The hippocampus is the area of our brain that's associated with learning and with memory This is frontal cortex. That's in the front part of our brain and that's really the human part of the brain responsible for things like impulse control control and judgment and planning and reasoning. Remember that glucocorticoids are major stress hormones like cortisol. These parts of the brain are getting lit up during times of stress. The mechanism for stress-related damage is still fairly unclear but we do see atrophy, which means damage or death, of the neurons in these areas that follow increased stress in rats and monkeys. Now that we have less invasive brain scans, we see that in humans as well. It follows that if these parts of the brain are damaged because of an overabundance of stress, that the effects of stress can play out in our emotional and behavioral responses. One of the major emotional effects of stress is depression. We're going to learn in future videos about stress coping and management, that a great way to combat the negative outcomes of stress is to think lightheartedly or through optimism. That's actually what makes depression such an awful disease for stress to contribute towards, because the main symptom of depression is anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure. Clinically speaking, depression's certainly validated by biology because parts of the brain, specifically the anterior cingulate, which is the inner part of the frontal cortex here, stop making and responding to serotonin, making us feel gloomy. The damage is compounded by the fact that without good serotonin response we perceive more stressors. While we're feeling gloomy, we perceive more stressors. A great term describing the relationship between chronic stress and major depression is "learned helplessness." "Learned helplessness" essentially means that you learn, from having the control ripped out of your hands, that you don't have control, and this leads you to take less and less control of your life. You lose the ability to identify coping mechanisms and to respond to your stress because you're taking less control over your life and the outcomes of your life, and this cycle just continues downwards into major depression. Major depression is one the major emotional effects of chronic stress in our life. Another major emotional and behavioral effect of stress on our lives is anger. Anger is an emotional and behavioral effect of stress. Our understanding of stress impact on behavior in psychology in based on a classic study by Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman. They were testing the notion that stress is associated with increased vulnerability to heart disease, which is something that we talked about in the physical effect of stress video. As a part of the assessment, they interviewed the participants and categorized them as Type A and Type B. Type A were those reactive, aggressive, competitive, easily-angered individuals, and then the easier-going participants were considered Type B. It turns out that the majority of those participants over nine years that suffered from heart attacks had been considered Type A. The studies that followed and clarified this study determined that the real toxic component of Type A personality was this prone to hostility and anger. We mentioned that stress initiates the fight-or-flight response and anger naturally accompanies that fight part, so anger is often a behavioral response to stress. We have anger and we also have anxiety. Anxiety as another major emotional effect of chronic stress. This centers around another part of our limbic system in our brains, which is the amygdala. This area right here is the amygdala. The amygdala has a lot to do with our fears and our phobias, so it fits in perfectly with this response system to stress. What I just connected was that the anger response to stress connects to the fight part of that sympathetic response. What naturally accompanies the flight aspect? Well, fear does. With the "flight" response we have fear. As you perceive stressors, it's like you're working out your amygdala muscle, and you perceive more things as fearful, which increases your anxiety. The last big, major, emotional and behavioral effect of stress that I want to talk about in this video is addiction. That's nice, we have three "A" words. When searching for coping mechanisms to stress, there are a lot of really great, healthy options but there are also a lot of really terrible options. For example, alcohol is often abused, especially by men as a coping mechanism, and it's associated with high rates of addiction. Similarly, many people become addicted to tobacco or illicit drugs as a coping mechanism to stress. Something that compounds the relationship between stress and addiction is the impairment to the frontal cortex, that area that we showed earlier. That frontal cortex, again, is associated with reasoning and planning, so impaired judgment can increase the likelihood of becoming consumed by these inappropriate coping mechanisms with addiction. There are many emotional and many behavioral effects of stress but these are kind of the big four areas, four kind of negative behavioral outcomes that often accompany chronic stress in our life.