The evidence that anxiety is not just a mental disorder - it's a metabolic disorder and it starts in childhood.
I got a question from the community:
“Dr. Søberg, you talk a lot about inflammation, chronic stress and mental disorders. I was wondering if you will explain how anxiety is related to stress and inflammation?”
This is such a great question and not common knowledge either. It should be, in my opinion so here we go…
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry, or fear that can range from mild to severe. It is a normal emotion we all experience occasionally, especially when faced with stressful situations. However, for some individuals, anxiety becomes a constant and overwhelming presence in their lives.
But why do some people develop chronic anxiety while others do not? The answer lies in the way our bodies respond to stress and inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural response of our body's immune system to fight off infections and heal injuries. However, when this response becomes chronic, it can lead to various health issues. Chronic inflammation has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Therefore, how does one develop chronic stress and inflammation?
Let me shade more light on this and the following questions:
- How is inflammation formed in early life and what is the impact.
- Health Issues Based on childhood Trauma.
- Evidence on Links Between Anxiety and Inflammation.
- The Connection Between early Childhood Experiences and Anxiety.
- Nature of Anxiety in Childhood and Adolescence with subsequent psychosis.
- Which Anxiety Disorders Affect Kids and Teenagers Frequently?
- Is there a link between chronic stress, inflammation, and anxiety disorders?
Inflammation and Early Life Stress
Can early life stress contribute to chronic inflammation? Individuals who experience trauma or stress during childhood are more likely to develop chronic inflammation later in life. This may be due to the changes in brain development and immune system function caused by early life stress.
An exciting study by Mollie Brown and colleagues aimed to explore the association between childhood trauma and physical and mental health outcomes in adulthood. They found that individuals with a history of childhood trauma are more likely to experience various health problems, including cardiovascular complications, musculoskeletal disorders, digestive disorders, migraines, arthritis, low energy, and poorer sleep quality.
This is also linked with psychological distress and lower emotional well-being, anhedonia and depressive mood, and higher rates of lifetime suicide ideation and attempt. The study also found that these associations are different for males and females, with males more likely to suffer from physical health problems while females experience poorer psychiatric outcomes.
The Connection Between early Childhood Experiences and Anxiety
It's sad to know that when a child experiences chronic stress or trauma, it can lead to long-term effects on both physical and mental health. It's not uncommon for individuals who experience early childhood trauma to develop anxiety disorders later in life.
A fascinating study by Antonella Trotta and colleagues aimed to investigate the relationship between psychotic experiences and inflammation in young adults. They conducted a series of tests on 1419 individuals between ages 12 and 18, with 30% of them reporting at least one psychotic experience during this period.
The results showed that those who experienced psychotic symptoms were more likely to have higher body mass index, lower family socioeconomic status, and have been exposed to severe victimization in childhood compared to those without psychotic experiences.
This study sheds light on potential connections between mental and physical health, highlighting the need for further research.
Is there a link between chronic stress, inflammation, and anxiety disorders?
Chronic stress is known to cause an inflammatory response in the body as it activates the sympathetic nervous system and increases cortisol levels. This leads to an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines that can damage cells and tissues.
Studies have shown that individuals with anxiety disorders have higher levels of inflammation markers, such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. This suggests that chronic stress and anxiety disorders may be closely linked to chronic inflammation.
In an exciting research, Zheng Ye and colleagues looked at the connection between inflammation and depression. They used data from a large cohort study of people in the UK to find out if there is any link between inflammation and symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The results showed that people with higher levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, are more likely to experience depression and anxiety symptoms. Interestingly, the association was found to be stronger for depression than for anxiety. The study also found evidence that this association was stronger in women than men.
Using Mendelian randomization, the researchers also investigated whether there is a causal relationship between inflammation and depression. They used genetic variants in two inflammation-related genes, interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein, to see if they are associated with increased or decreased risk of depression.
The results showed that higher levels of interleukin 6 were associated with an increased risk of depression, while higher levels of C-reactive protein were associated with decreased risk. This is interesting because interleukin 6 and C-reactive proteins are involved in the body's response to inflammation. However, this could mean that different types of inflammation may have different effects on depression risk.
Final Thoughts on the Link Between Inflammation and Anxiety Disorders
Chronic stress and anxiety can lead to chronic inflammation in the body, which can have adverse effects on physical and mental health. Early intervention for anxiety disorders is crucial as it may help prevent or reduce the risk of developing other health issues associated with chronic inflammation.
It's essential to seek help and support for yourself or your child if anxiety symptoms are persistent and affecting daily life.
Keynotes and protocols:
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issues in children and teenagers.
- Specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are some of the most frequently occurring anxiety disorders in kids and teenagers.
- Chronic stress can lead to an inflammatory response in the body, associated with increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
- Individuals with anxiety disorders have been found to have higher levels of inflammation markers, such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6.
- There is a strong association between inflammation and symptoms of depression and anxiety, with the link being more vital for depression.
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