Effects of Anxiety and Depression on the Brain

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Anxiety is feeling of fear and worrying, awaiting a future disaster but it is not disabling as the psychiatric anxiety disorder.

People with physical illnesses may suffer from anxiety, which is more common in people suffering from stroke, heart disease and cancer compared to the general population.
Anxiety is a risk factor for poor glycaemic control, which may develop to diabetes; as well as a high risk for suffering from anxiety while waiting for cancer diagnosis (using CT and MRI) and treatment (for pain and the cancer illness).

Cognitive changes associated with anxiety

The hippocampus is a main structure in the brain which controls both cognition and emotions. Neuropsychology links the role of the hippocampus to emotions in general as well as emphasizing its importance for anxiety. This is apparent when anxiety is the emotional response in situations of conflict and uncertainty, for example the conflict between expectations based on information retrieved from the memory and what actually happens. To resolve the conflict the hippocampus increases levels of attention and arousal, the anxious behavior. NMDA receptor antagonists in the hippocampus, affect a range of emotions, including reducing anxiety, as well as causing difficulties in certain forms of memory and learning.

Anxiety involves preoccupation with threat information, by diverting attention to worries or external threats; less attention is available to perform a task, or to update information in the working memory
Anxiety and cognition are exclusively related in the elderly, this is apparent in attention and memory difficulties. Anxiety disorders with depression in the elderly are a risk factor for earlier memory decline.

Depression

Depression is a state of melancholy usually of moderate intensity in contrast with major depression which is a mental disorder. Symptoms and signs of depression can be a lowered mood or distress evident through the facial expression, especially the eyes; crying; difficulties falling asleep, early morning waking, or over sleeping; loss of interest, motivation or drive and lack of enjoyment to do everyday activities and other difficulties functioning at work or at home.

Psychological distress is common when people are going through difficult times, for example, family or marital disharmony, job hassles, money worries, unemployment or chronic illness.
Reactive depression has an environmental cause or stressor. The emotional reactions to this kind of stress are on a spectrum from worries and anxiety to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
Endogenous or severe depression has no identifiable cause or psychosocial trigger and may be caused by a chemical imbalance or a personality characteristic. Usually antidepressant drug medications can help if this is the case.

Cognitive changes associated with depression

Depressed people often also suffer from problems in cognitive functioning and neuropsychological difficulties, mainly related to decision-making on goal directed tasks and memory abilities. Those that also suffer from anxiety exhibit psychomotor slower movements. A history of depression almost doubles the risk of later in life developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

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Pharmaceutical analyst who loves blogging about health and medical issues. Has written more than 150 articles and a book on attention deficit disorder. Correctly predicted delayed approval of Bydureon, approval of Provenge by FDA, and the non-approval of Acthar on June 11.

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