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Stress is Good for you?

Does this look familiar?

High school is stressful. Students are forced to balance heavy loads of school work on top of family obligations and time-consuming extracurricular activities. We all know a little bit of stress is healthy, providing just enough motivation to give you a kick in the butt, but not enough to make you want to pull your hair out. However, when finals time rolls around and you’re ready to cry because you’re so overburdened, then stress becomes a problem. When you’re stressed, glucocorticoids, or stress hormones increase the level of cortisol in your body, prepping it to take on the physical demands of stress. (In terms of evolution, being under stress is being chased by a lion that thinks you’re dinner, not taking the SAT tomorrow). Science has always told us that stress is bad for us; high levels of cortisol are linked to depression and high levels of cortisol over prolonged periods of time actually impair our ability to cope with stress. Just reading about this is stressful, right? But what if I told you that stress might actually be good for you, at least in one respect. A new study conducted by Ranjish Rao and published in Biological Psychiatry shows that high glucocorticoid levels could potentially help reduce the development of PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.


No, I’m not Crazy. Stress Really Can Be Good for You

PTSD is caused when a person witnesses a traumatic, potentially life-threatening event. For example, combat soldiers and children who were sexually abused often times suffer from PTSD. Recent studies show the “trauma” in PTSD is the impact of stress on the brain structure of the victim, according to Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry. The study conducted by Rao was inspired by an odd occurrence: clinical reports showed people with low cortisol levels were more likely to develop PTSD, and that cortisol treatment actually reduces the symptoms of PTSD. The study used a model of a rat to study its stress levels in relation to corticoids. Professor Chattarji from the National Center of Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India explains the outcome of the experiment: “ We were able to…. identify a possible cellular mechanism in the amygdala, the emotional hub of the brain [responsible for this odd occurrence.]” It turns out the number of synapses in the amygdala is a fairly accurate predictor of whether or not a person will have high or low anxiety levels. The corticoids given to the rats reset the number of synapses in their amygdalas, and brought down their stress level.

So What Does this Mean for Me?

If you’re a high-stressed, health conscious person like me, after reading this you might feel slightly better about your high stress levels, but don’t celebrate just yet. Even though we all have the potential to develop PTSD, not everyone does, so this study is relevant to only a portion of the population. Even if it were relevant to everyone, the stress hormones in the study were given to the rats under controlled circumstances, and if this were to become an actual therapeutic treatment for PTSD, the patient would most likely ingest corticoids under the close watch of their psychiatrist. In my opinion, the damage caused by high glucocorticoid levels far outweigh the benefits. So, take a deep breath and relax. Maybe go for a run or talk with a friend. Your stress will eventually go away.




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  1. sayrest4

    This is very informative. Most people attribute the word stress with anxiety or unhappiness, but this shows that stress can be beneficial as well. The article which I have found describes how the body reacts to different types of stress: healthy and harmful. Healthy stress can improve performance in certain areas while harmful stress can cause pain and lapses in logic. It is really interesting as to how every person reacts differently to challenges, including the type of stress that they experience. One student might gain a mental boost from the stress of taking a test, where another might become fuzzy and nervous.

  2. ilikebioha

    I also think that stress is necessary in peoples lives. This article says how in todays society, stress is treated like the worst thing in the world and must be avoided. Everyone has ignored the pros of stress and how it evolved to help us survive. Janet DiPietro agrees with you, explodingllama342, and said ” most people do their best under mild to moderate stress.”

  3. hannahbanana

    This is an interesting article and like explodingllama342 it doesn’t shock me. It makes sense that you would build up almost a tolerance for stress so when something terrible happens you handle it better than a very sheltered person who has never experienced a hard time.

    But, stress as a teen can be overwhelming sometimes. Here is a website for any teen who needs help with stress management.

  4. bg95

    I find this post interesting because I always assumed the levels of stress we’re subjected to as high school students were largely detrimental. The fact that high cortisol levels can help treat PTSD is interesting because it’s counterintuitive; I wouldn’t expect more stress to help a stress-related disorder. However I would be careful about saying “stress is good for you”. This website provides a list of the negative effects of stress overload, including memory loss, social issues, and physical ailments.

  5. explodingllama342

    The heart is probably one of the most taxed organs when one is under a lot of stress. My friend’s grandfather had heart disease, and he had to keep his stress under control in order to manage his condition. This article talks a lot about stress and the heart:,8599,1669766,00.html

    However, I do have to agree with the article to a degree. I, personally, don’t function as well if there is no stress in my life; the stress keeps me on my toes and lets me get things done. There are limits to this benefit; insane amounts of stress for long periods of time. like during final exams, usually mess up my immune system and I end up getting sick. So, I think that it’s all about balance.

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