Excess Stress Changes Marks on DNA and Could Epigenetically Harm Mental Health

An excess amount of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body could impact epigenetic processes and boost one’s risk of experiencing psychological issues in the long run, reports a new study in Scientific Reports. People with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, depression and other stress-related disorders could be adjusting chemical tags on their DNA as a result of high cortisol exposure, which may even persist throughout the course of their lives or be passed on to their children.

The study assessed individuals in remission with Cushing’s Syndrome (CS) and found a significant alteration to epigenetic marks across the entire genome. Although CS is a rare disorder caused by excess production of the hormone cortisol, the results may translate similarly to those suffering from other common conditions related to high-stress. Additionally, those afflicted with CS are also highly at risk for suffering from anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and cognitive impairment.