A Stressful And Negative Outlook Can Hurt Your Brain

A recent study at Rush University Medical Center showed that A Stressful and Negative Outlook can lead to memory loss and other cognitive impairments.

We already knew that severe and prolonged emotional distress, such as combat, often damages the brain and leads to memory problems. Thousands of Vietnam vets, and now Iraq war vets, with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are ample proof of this.

What is surprising about this new study is that even mild prolonged emotional distress such as Chronic Stress and Worry can lead to cognitive impairment. In fact, the Rush study found that over time, negative emotions like worry and anxiety may increase your risk of memory impairment by as much as 40 percent, source emetrol.

Perhaps, with all the recent advances in our understanding of the brain, we shouldn't be so surprised. You see, it wasn't very long ago that we believed the brain to be relatively unchanging. Neurons simply died off over time and that was all there was to it.

Now, however, we know that the brain is more like a muscle - those parts that you exercise grow and strengthen; those parts that you don't use shrink and become weaker.

And, over time, these changes can be quite large.

For example, exposure to severe and prolonged emotional distress, such as combat, can actually shrink the size of a certain area of the brain known as the hippocampus. This reduction in size can be as much twenty percent! That's a huge chunk of your brain to go missing.

The hippocampus is responsible for storing and retrieving specific memories. It is believed that this shrunken hippocampus is responsible for the memory problems that are typical of those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

And, problems with memory due to prolonged emotional distress is exactly what the Rush study found. But here the culprit was not the emotional upheaval caused by your life constantly being threatened. No, it was something as commonplace as believing that things will not turn out well.

So, if you are a chronic worrier, if you often feel tense and jittery, or get angry at the way people treat you, or if you feel inferior to others - if these and other negative thoughts and beliefs are the characteristics that color your world, then you have reason to be concerned.

If you would like to learn how to overcome these negative emotions, check out my articles on stress and mind/body healing.