Term Paper: Anxiety, or "Stress," May Be Chronic (Trait

Pages: 3 (1079 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology  ·  Buy This Paper

Anxiety, or "stress," may be chronic (trait anxiety) or temporary (state anxiety) and is often triggered by life events brought on by uncontrolled circumstances or created by the stressor. (Garnefski, 2001) Anxiety and panic disorders affect an estimated 2.4 million Americans. Panic attacks are twice as common in women as in men. (Hitti, 2006)

Short-term stress doesn't have the same effect as long-term stress, as the following study shows. Being stressed out for long periods of time may increase anxiety. A study published in Behavior Neuroscience, lays some of the responsibility on stress hormones, cortisol and corticotripin-releasing hormone, to help the body respond to threats. But if these hormones remain in any measure in the body over a long period of time, they can increase anxiety and mood disorders. The research, done by Paul Ardayfio, BSC, a graduate student in molecular neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and Boston's McLean Hospital, studied female mice, to find out how chronic stress affects mood disorders. Corticosterone, a stress hormone was induced orally for 17 or 18 days to female mice, mimicking long-term exposure to the stress hormone. The control group received the spiked water only for the first day.

The mice got two tests, without any training: In the first test, the group that was allowed long-term exposure to the hormone was more hesitant to enter a well-lighted, exposed space after having been in a dark part of the cage. The researchers interpreted the hesitancy as anxiety. (Hitti, 2006)

In the second test, the mice were exposed to high-frequency sound. Mice under long-term exposure to corticosterone had a dulled reaction to the sound the first 10 times they heard it. This was interpreted as depression.

The study suggests that long-term stress may lead the one under stress to dimming reactions, depression and being less prepared to handle additional stress. Hesitancy to act (anxiety) and little reaction to additional stress (depression) appear to be the result of long-term stress.

Another study, published in Science, on July 17, 2003, describes variations in a gene called 5-HTT, which regulates levels of serotonin, a brain chemical. People with short versions of this gene were more likely to develop depression and suicidal tendencies in response to life stresses than people with a long version of the gene, according to Avshalom Caspi, MD. It is evident that a person's response to life is altered by his or her genetic makeup. Although the 5-HTT gene may not be directly associated with depression, it could moderate the amount of serotonin released in response to stress, he writes. (2003)

In their study, Caspi and colleagues followed 847 children, born in the early 1970s, from birth to adulthood. Genetic studies showed that 17% had two copies of the stress-sensitive short version; 31% had two copies of the protective long version, and 51% had one copy of each version.

The researchers charted stressful life events as the children grew up - from ages 21 to 26 - such as employment, financial, housing, health, and relationship problems. Among their problems were debt, homelessness, disabling injury, and abuse. There was no difference in the number of stressful life events between the groups that had the different genes. At age 26, 17% had developed major depression… [END OF PREVIEW]

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