Neurobiology of Stress and Mind-Body Treatment

Stress Hormones

Amen and Amen (2016) warn that excessive stress causes a large amount of stress hormone discharging throughout the human body.  When stress is experienced the body responds sending a message to the hypothalamus, a small part at the base of the brain, communicating a warning signal to the body. In reaction nerves and hormones activate and without delay release a flood of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline escalates the heart rate and increases blood pressure. Cortisol increases glucose in the blood, modifies the immune system, represses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes all which help the body to allow for the fight or flight response. Cortisol and adrenaline help the body respond to distress during a period of crisis, however, are meant to return to the pre-crisis once the threat is resolved (The Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).

Unfortunately, recent life catastrophes can occur sequentially resulting in an increase in stress hormones rather than decreasing to the pre-crisis level. As mentioned above adrenaline and cortisol are released in response to stress through the adrenal glands. Adrenaline and Cortisol help people respond quickly and repair the body promptly in dangerous situations. However, when stress has prolonged the overproduction of these hormones can cause harm to the body.

Continual exposure to stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety as well as problems with memory, concentration and sleep impairment. Medical problems can include, high blood pressure, stoke, headaches, heart disease, digestive problems, weight gain as well as many others (The Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).

The Nerobiological Effects of Stress

The prolonged exposure to s stress hormones can contribute to severe such illness, it is imperative to help people cope with specific stress evoking incidences as well as management with daily pressures and anxieties. Harrison (2017) describes high energy events as situations that drive the mind to a high energy state. Racing tangential thoughts are surpassing executive functioning shifting without thinking to impulsive reacting. Clear thinking, behaving or performing tasks becomes difficult because thoughts and feelings move so fast that an individual does not have enough time to process them adequately.

The aftermath the surging hormones of experiencing a high energy event seems to resolve slowly. The reason the reduction in energy is gradual goes back to primitive humans. After a threatening event, the danger might have continued to lurk, and the need for a quick rise in energy may have been needed if the source of danger has not been resolved. Similarly, in recent time people who experience traumatic events can be triggered easily if a related occurrence provokes similar responses.  Consequently, experiencing persistent symptoms that facilitate more surges of stress hormones and may cause more damage to the brain-mind and body (Harrison, 2017).

In addition to a high energy stressful event some struggle with generalized anxiety disorder. According to Harrison (2017), anxiety can continuously be a restrained energy state with the constant release of stress hormone. Continual stress is often diagnosed as a generalized anxiety disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health (2010-2018) declares that chronic stress can contribute to illness, triggering symptoms of headaches, high blood pressure, chest pain, heart palpitations, skin rashes, and loss of sleep (National Institute of Mental Health 2010-2018)

Mind-Body Treatment of Stress


Developing a mind /body program can help people who are both suffering from a life event stress and assist people who struggle with everyday stressors. Siegel D. (2012) explains that is impossible to treat the brain independent of the body because the brain and body are connected as a whole. The brain is attached to the body via the peripheral nervous system as well as all the body’s physiological processes. Input from one part of the body affects the rest. For example, input from the extended nervous system affects the functioning of the brain, and conversely, hormonal input from the blood shapes the brain’s functioning and influences the immune system. Therefore, it is crucial when treating traumatic stressors everyday stress that using a mind-body approach is imperative.

 Mindfulness and body methods can be used as part of several theoretic mental health theories as well as compliment others.  Psychodynamic theorists for many decades have been interested in Buddhist thinking and meditation.  The theorist is as early as Freud were interested in eastern Buddhist meditation as well as Jung and Fritz Perls(Harrison, 2017).

Psychoanalysis or psychodynamic psychotherapy has been on a developmental path beginning with Freud's drive theory moving toward a more relational point of view. The establishment of the Object Relations School, Self- Psychology,  Intersubjectivity and most recently mindfulness and neuroplasticity have respected the psychotherapist and client are two separate people in the consulting room interacting both out of their psychology. The relational aspect of psychodynamic psychotherapy lends itself well to both mindfulness and body awareness in sessions.

Mindfulness in psychodynamic psychotherapy begins by the therapist providing a safe holding environment; the psychotherapist provides a mindful environment to allow clients to think consciously and move to the role of observer both in thought and experience of visceral sensations of feelings allowing the client to develop an awareness of bodily sensations to feelings. The internal observer enables the individual to develop an awareness of unconscious memories from early experiences. Weiss (2009) explains that the internal mind/body observer is connected to neurobiological research. In early childhood memories are drawn into the body and help form structural configurations that contribute to personality. The physical memories represent essential elements of early self-organization and interpersonal reactions. As the self-observer in treat reveals both mind and body aspects of this new organization, people can begin to release aspects of themselves that impedes beneficial functioning.

Respecting the client ’s individuality is of primary importance in developing a mindfulness program. Amen and Amen (2016) developed brain assessment and found sixteen different brain types. An effective mindfulness program could be tailored to the client both in empathy and in helping the client to gain knowledge and of their strengths and become less judgemental of limitations.  

 As studies of brain types and effective treatments for those types minds continue, clinical work will become more effective. Clinicians may get more precise in treatment planning to target problem areas for clients needs. Additionally, helping a client is to find external solutions that can help with the limitations of certain brain types.

Recent studies indicated that particular types of meditation could modify different social and emotional aspects of the brain. At the end of one study, MRI’s revealed that weaker parts of the brain in subjects grew thicker which matched with increased skill in the target area of the brain. More research is needed in the area of brain type and meditation intervention, however, this gives clinicians and clients much hope to improve functioning for people with certain types of limitations(Williams, 2017).

In assessing different types of brains and the use of mindfulness in treatment, it is essential to consider culture, socioeconomic status, ethics, and spiritual practices, and programs to the symptomatic relief of individuals. The objective of using mindfulness and meditation is to reduce stress and allow people to cope with the stressors in their lives. However,

the social suffering in certain cultures and socioeconomic groups is essential to incite action. Anger and anxiety can create agency and action to create better lifestyles. It is vital to help people understand that feeling anger and struggles are not necessarily harmful. Angry emotions a can signal social, political or economic factors are not beneficial people. Rather than quieting and accepting these feelings, it is essential for the clinician to acknowledge these feeling and assist clients with any action plan they wish to pursue (Purser et al., 2016).

            In developing a mind-body it important for the therapist to have an understanding of the growing research of psychoneuroimmunology helping to have more specific information of the relationship between the emotional state of a client and their vulnerability to certain diseases.  Research has shown that stress modifies the actions of the body’s systems, negatively affecting their functioning to protect health. Psychoneuroimmunologists hypothesize that stress may increase the probability of an individuals susceptibility to diseases, such as cancers, coronary disease, and some autoimmune diseases. Some studies have shown that the stressor is not the only culprit in weakening the immune system but the manner of coping with a traumatic event or everyday stressors may diminish an individuals ability to fight off disease.

            Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the exchanges between the immune system and the central nervous system . Particularly, the manner in which the interactions of behavior, neural firing, endocrine functions, and immune processes contribute to psychiatric function and health  (Loftis & Huckans, 2001-2018).  Studies have revealed the brain‐immune network to be impacted by psychological processes especially stress. Interestingly evidence has indicated that acute stressors are generally associated with increased immunity. Conversely, long-term chronic stress tends to suppress the immune system(Zachariae,  2009).

            Developing a Mind-body treatment plan can assist clients about ways in which they think about problems to help them feel empowered and have some control. It is impressive to watch clients mood become more positive as they feel a little power and control over a situation that rendered them helpless. Most importantly a feeling of empowerment enables individuals to manage and reduce stress as well as develop some control over their behavior. The results can strengthen patterns of neural firing, endocrine functions and immune processes assisting client is in being less vulnerable to disease. As information is gained from research clinicians will be able to make mind-body treatment plans more specific to individual needs(Lorentz, 2006).


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References

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Cafasso J 2017 Adrenaline Rush: Everything You Should KnowCafasso, J. (2017, November). Adrenaline Rush: Everything You Should Know. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/adrenaline-rush 201810311616431307152152

Germer C K 2013 Mindfulness and PsychotherapyGermer, C. K. (2013). Mindfulness What Is It? What Does It Matter? In C. K. Germer, R. D. Siegel, & P. F. Fulton (Eds.), Mindfulness and Psychotherapy (2nd ed., pp. 3-35). New York, NY. Guilford Press.  201811121824131271682024

Harrison E 2017 Foundations of Mindfulness: How to Cultivate Attention, Good Judgement, and TranquilityHarrison, E. (2017). The Foundations of Mindfulness: How to Cultivate Attention, Good Judgement, and Tranquility.: The Experiment; Reprint Edition.  20181023225431764785051

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Mayo Clinic Staff 2016 Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at RiskThe Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, April). Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037 20181031164523235457658

National Institute of Mental Health 2010-2018 Five Things You Should Know about StressNational Institute of Mental Health. (2010-2018). Five Things You Should Know about Stress. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/stress 20181106021508241404175

Purser R E Burke A Forbes D 2016 Handbookof MindfulnessCulture, Context, and SocialEngagement123Purser, R. E., Burke, A., & Forbes, D. (Eds.). (2016). Handbook of MindfulnessCulture, Context, and SocialEngagement123. , Switzerland:  Springer International Publishing.  201811200028181498527885

Siegel D 2012 Pocket Guide to Interpersonal NeurobiologySiegel, D. (2012). Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology. N.Y, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.  201811121412371168724418

Weiss H 2009 Use of Mindfulness in Psychodynamic and Body Oriented Psychotherapy.Weiss, H. (2009). The Use of Mindfulness in Psychodynamic and Body Oriented Psychotherapy. Body, Movement, and Dance in Psychotherapy, 4(1), 5-16.  20181117110215274254202

Williams C 2017 Different Meditation Types Train Distain Parts Your BrainWilliams, C. (2017, October). Different Meditation Types Train Distant Parts Your Brain. Retrieved from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2149489-different-meditation-types-train-distinct-parts-of-your-brain/ 201811181456211657332659

ZACHARIAE R  2009 Psychoneuroimmunology: A bio‐psycho‐social approach to health and disease.Zachariae, R. ( 2009). Psychoneuroimmunology: A bio‐psycho‐social approach to health and disease. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 50(6), 641-645.  20181122004152876474976


 

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