Home » Is There a Connection between Stress Hormones and Thinking Ability?

It is common wisdom that stress is hard on the human body. Newer research indicates that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol impair a person’s thinking ability, visual perception and attention.

A certain amount of stress is an everyday fact of life. Mild levels of stress, like regular exercise, is helpful both physically and mentally. Proper exercise provides people with numerous long-term positive benefits. However, excessive or consent amounts of stress are a different story.

The Brain, Cortisol & Stress:

In 2018, researchers looked at how the stress of everyday life can impact the brain of healthy middle-aged adults. What they found was that people with higher amounts of stress-related hormones in their system had the most difficulty with mental attributes such as organization, memory and attention. People with the highest amount of cortisol in their blood seemed to have changes in their brain that typically are seen as early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

The findings from this research supports with theories that had been assumed, but not fully backed by data. Now, there is a correlation between changes in a person’s brain, the amount of cortisol in the blood and midlife stress. Mental health professionals have long known that excessive amounts of stress can have a negative impact of people’s lives. Dangerous habits and addictions are often linked to trauma and stress.

A surprising piece of data from the study was link between women and high levels of stress. The research found that women suffered more from high levels of cortisol and impaired thinking ability. However, there is a chicken versus the egg dilemma in this situation.

Are middle-aged women in the United States experiencing more stress than their male counterparts? Or, does a woman’s body respond to stress by producing a greater amount of stress hormone? Additional studies are needed on this topic. Similar correlations appear in the field of psychiatry and mental health. In this case, research has shown that women are at a higher risk for developing depression.

Understanding & Managing Stress:

It is normal for people to feel some stress in life. That is just part of being alive. Having concerns about important life events and feeling sadness after a traumatic event is to be expected. But, problems occur when these feelings are so overwhelming that they interfere with a person’s daily activities.

A possible mental health condition may exist if the amount of worrying is so great that a person’s everyday life is disrupted. People may experience random panic attacks or vivid flashbacks related to an emotional event that occurred years ago.

On other occasions people may experience random and uncontrollable thoughts that can easily elevate levels of cortisol in their blood. These negative thoughts and emotions are stressful and harmful to a person’s overall mental and physical well-being. However, there are some basic strategies for managing and reducing the impact of unwelcomed, but persistent thoughts.

Strategies for reducing Stress & Cortisol:

Practicing mindfulness with a focus on deep and controlled breathing is one strategy to control stress levels. These cortisol lowering exercises should be performed in quiet place that is free from interruptions. Here are some basic steps to follow when practicing this activity:

  • People should sit with with good posture and focus their breathing. When people hunch and slouch, it makes it more difficult to breath.
  • Practitioners should focus on slow and controlled breathing, even when unwelcomed thoughts enter their minds.
  • By expanding the air in their lungs and diaphragm, people should be able to feel airing flowing in and out.

Overtime, activities like can gradually reduce a person’s stress levels and hopefully lower the amount of Cortisol in their system. If high levels of stress are disrupting a person’s life, they should seek help from an experienced mental health professional. A licensed healthcare professional can guide people through this cycle of stress

About our practice:

The successful treatment of anxiety-related mental health disorders is one of the specialties at Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center. They understand that they are here to serve the needs and concerns of their patients. Their psychiatric practice is located near Columbus, Ohio in the town of Dublin.

For more information about their mental health services and treatment options, email or call them. Their main office number is (614) 580-6917.

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Contributor: ABCS RCM