I’m a passionate but fairly even-tempered person. Times when I’ve felt stressed were very few and far between until I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and consciously being on over-load and “wigged-out” became greater and more obvious.
It also became obvious that stress exacerbated my symptoms.
There’s a saying that the stress of one person ‘rubs off’ on another. Having “sat with” thousands of stressed- out clients for 30 years I’ve often wondered if there was any connection to my developing fibromyalgia.
Now there’s scientific evidence that stress can more than just ‘rub off’ – it can mess with my brain as badly as it can mess with people in my life (and vice versa) . . . even if I’m not a mouse.
A study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience has found that stress may be contagious and even its effects on the brain may be transferred to people around. The research was conducted by Jaideep Bains, PhD, and his team at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), at the University of Calgary and his team.
“The study that was conducted on mice, also showed that the effects of stress were reversed in female mice, following a social interaction, but the same was not true for male mice. “Brain changes associated with stress underpin many mental illnesses including PTSD, anxiety disorders and depression”, said Dr. Bains
“Recent studies indicate that stress and emotions can be ‘contagious’. Whether this has lasting consequences for the brain is not known.”
The research team studied the effects of stress in pairs of male and female mice. They removed one mouse from each pair and exposed them to mild stress and then returned them to their respective partners to test the results. The researchers monitored the response of a specific group of cells that control the brain’s response to stress. This showed that the cells of both the stressed mice and their partners were affected in the same way.
The most remarkable result of the experiment was that the neurons of the mice who were not themselves exposed to stress had been altered in a way that was identical to that of the exposed ones. The mirror effects were caused due to the release of a chemical from the activated neurons called the ‘alarm pheromone’. This chemical alerts the partner mouse who can then transfer the same signals to others in the group.