The evolution of the molecular response to stress and its relevance to trauma and stressor-related disorders

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The experience of “stress”, in its broadest meaning, is an inevitable part of life. All living creatures have evolved multiple mechanisms to deal with such threats and challenges and to avoid damage to the organism that may be incurred from these stress responses. Trauma and stressor-related disorders are psychiatric conditions that are caused specifically by the experience of stress, though depression, anxiety and some other disorders may also be unleashed by stress. Stress, however, is not a mandatory criterion of these diagnoses. This article focuses on the evolution of the neurochemicals involved in the response to stress and the systems in which they function. This includes the skin and gut, and the immune system.

Evidence suggests that responses to stress are evolutionarily highly conserved, have wider involvement than the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal stress axis alone, and that excessive stress responses can produce stressor-related disorders in both humans and animals.

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