Feb. 28 (UPI) -- People who go through a lot of stress as kids often grow up to develop dysfunctional and dangerous behaviors as adults, a new study says.
In fact, when adolescents can lower stress it reduces the risk of developing adulthood behaviors that could lead to problems like anxiety, drug and gambling addictions, mood disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to findings that appeared Thursday in Scientific Reports.
"Despite the fact that being exposed to situations of stress has short and long-term negative effects on behavior and physiology, there are several factors which could mitigate its impact," Roser Nadal, a researcher at Institute of Neuroscience of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and study author, said in a news release.
The researchers tested this theory with lab experiments using three groups of rats in adolescence. One group endured several sessions of stress that they could stop by changing their behavior pattern. Another group got the same number of stress sessions with no ability to stop or slow by changing their behavior. The last group, the control group, got no stress at all.
To gauge the animals' reaction to stress, the researchers measured the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
As they reached adulthood, the rats in the second group developed more motor impulsivity and less cognitive flexibility, brought on by an increase of the amount of dopamine type 2 receptors in the dorsal striatum. The receptors are responsible for regulating both impulsivity and cognitive flexibility.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says roughly 60 percent of children and just under 20 percent of adults have ADHD.
"We have observed that one of these factors is the possibility of having control over the source of stress", Nadal said.