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Sure, anxiety disorders of many different kinds are quite common but how these disorders affect us is not something we know as much as we should about. While it might seem pretty clear how we are affected by anxiety, the truth is we’re still learning more in regards even now. 

Stress associated with anxiety can physically alter our cells which is not something your average person is going to be aware of. Chronic stress whether it’s from someone’s passing, a serious event, or other things of the sort can lead to a lot of mental health issues this including anxiety disorders in many different forms based upon how someone reacts to that stress. That having been said, we all react to different situations and stressors in our own ways.

One study in particular that seems to work to put this kind of thing into perspective was published recently in the journal PLOS. This study titled ‘Multi-omics analysis identifies mitochondrial pathways associated with anxiety-related behavior,’ goes over how poorly understood the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to this kind of thing are. For this study, mice were placed in situations that caused them to develop symptoms of things like anxiety and depression. From there, their changes in genetic activity and protein production were monitored.

They were able to find that a number of changes happened within mitochondrial cells of these mice and found similar changes in patients with panic disorder. This leading many to believe that these changes are occuring within those affected by anxiety disorder at least on some level. Changes like this should be something we continue to further look into.

The abstract of that study is listed as follows:

Stressful life events are major environmental risk factors for anxiety disorders, although not all individuals exposed to stress develop clinical anxiety. The molecular mechanisms underlying the influence of environmental effects on anxiety are largely unknown. To identify biological pathways mediating stress-related anxiety and resilience to it, we used the chronic social defeat stress (CSDS) paradigm in male mice of two inbred strains, C57BL/6NCrl (B6) and DBA/2NCrl (D2), that differ in their susceptibility to stress. Using a multi-omics approach, we identified differential mRNA, miRNA and protein expression changes in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and blood cells after chronic stress. Integrative gene set enrichment analysis revealed enrichment of mitochondrial-related genes in the BNST and blood of stressed mice. To translate these results to human anxiety, we investigated blood gene expression changes associated with exposure-induced panic attacks. Remarkably, we found reduced expression of mitochondrial-related genes in D2 stress-susceptible mice and in exposure-induced panic attacks in humans, but increased expression of these genes in B6 stress-susceptible mice. Moreover, stress-susceptible vs. stress-resilient B6 mice displayed more mitochondrial cross-sections in the post-synaptic compartment after CSDS. Our findings demonstrate mitochondrial-related alterations in gene expression as an evolutionarily conserved response in stress-related behaviors and validate the use of cross-species approaches in investigating the biological mechanisms underlying anxiety disorders.

In the past, we have been told that keeping stress and anxiety levels in general down was a good idea as stress on a chronic level is not good for anyone but the damage that can be done due to it is still something we’re working to better understand. A scientific review paper from back in 2016 actually went so far as to mention that it could cause damage to our brains that causes an increased risk for developing dementia. How do you feel about all of this? I for one think that when it comes to mental health, in general, we need to put more effort into research.