Stepping Out Blog

Can Permanent Stress Cause Mental Disorders?


This could be an uncomfortable topic for many people, but it’s a topic best discussed.

Research conducted by Prof Dr Georg Juckel at the LWL university clinic at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) has found that immune cells that are activated through permanent stress will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain.

The effects of permanent stress on the immune system may lead to mental disorders in the future, his research shows.

The search for causes of mental disorders has been keeping researchers busy for a long time. Various hypotheses have been postulated over the years.

“Originally, the brain and the immune system were considered two separate systems,” explains Prof Dr Georg Juckel, Medical Director at the RUB’s LWL university clinic for psychiatry, psychotherapy and preventive medicine.

“It was assumed that the brain operates independently from the immune system and has hardly anything to do with it. This, however, is not true.”

The studies carried out in Bochum have shown that the more frequently the brain gets triggered due to stress, the more likely it seems that a person will have some form of a mental disease such as schizophrenia

Cases Vary from Individual to Individual

Susceptibility for stress effects varies from individual to individual and it should be noted that not every individual who is under permanent stress will develop a mental disorder.

Prof Juckel’s team suspects the cause to go back to the embryonic stage. US researchers demonstrated as far back as the 1950s that children born of mothers who contracted true viral influenza during pregnancy were seven times as likely to suffer schizophrenia later in life.

The researchers from Bochum confirmed this hypothesis in animal models. Now, they a striving to research into the mechanism that makes people susceptible to this disease.

“The embryo undergoes some kind of immune response which has far-reaching consequences and presumably shapes the future immune system.” says Dr Astrid Friebe from the LWL clinic.

The link between the body and the mind is certainly a fascinating one. For years the medical world have used placebo type drugs in order for a patients mind to tell them they are being healed, if this can be said for curing illnesses then surely the brain could also play a part in causing illnesses as well.

How important do you feel Prof Juckel’s research will prove in his field and what other links could there be between our brain and our body that we are yet to fully understand?

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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