What Happens in the Anxiety Brain? Neuroscientific Approach

Anxiety is caused by an imbalance between the emotional and inhibitory parts of the brain.

Anxiety is excessive worry or worry. Anxiety actually prepares the body to fight the danger. However, there is not always a tangible danger. In the absence of danger, anxiety forces a person to flee from an invisible enemy, to keep running towards an unknown goal. If anxiety is inevitable for you; you know how it affects other aspects of your life, such as work, school, and relationships. Anxiety is actually a helpful emotion that keeps us alive. But too much is worse than killing people.

Causes of Anxiety

Anxiety is part of our primitive, emotional brain (limbic system) that protects us from danger. This area of ​​the brain, particularly the amygdala, is used to warn us of danger. It sends a message to fight or escape danger. Three regions of the brain, the hippocampus, amygdala, and cortex, are responsible for anxiety. The amygdala is the brain’s alarm system responsible for fear and anger. When there is a frightening or dangerous situation, the memory and learning center applies to the Hippocampus and asks. “Is there anything to be afraid of?” If the hippocampus says yes, the amygdala instantly triggers an anxiety reaction, forcing us to flee. The cortex is the part that allows us to make voluntary movements. When the amygdala sends an escape signal, the cortex has no time to think. First we run, then we think. For this reason, when individuals calm down and think, “Yes, I know there is nothing to be afraid of, but I can’t help it, then my brain stops and I cannot control it.” they say. Especially in anxiety disorder with panic attacks, the amygdala is in a panic state, triggered quickly, and is suspicious of everything.

Anxiety is different from fear. Fear is directed towards a particular stimulus; If there is no stimulus, there is no fear. Anxiety does not go away when there is no stimulus. Especially in generalized anxiety disorder, it is a definite worry that something dangerous will happen.

What’s going on in the brain? We can talk about an imbalance between the emotional and thought-inhibiting parts of the brain. The amygdala is a brain structure that is always alert to threats so it can react quickly. You must be fully operational and ready when in a dangerous situation. However, in non-threatening situations, a healthy prefrontal cortex inhibits the lower parts and acts as a brake, suppressing the accelerated responses of the amygdala. “There is nothing to be afraid of. You are not in danger! Escape!” etc

In the anxious brain, the amygdala is hypersensitive and poorly connected to the cortex. That is, the amygdala produces too many false alarms by interpreting an uncertain situation as threatening, perceiving it as an exaggerated threat. This process causes great pain by activating areas of brain pain, as evidenced by research.

Anxiety also has detrimental effects on memory. Anxiety causes great stress and stress shrinks the hippocampus. This region is crucial for processing long-term and contextual memories. Unfortunately, as anxiety progresses; All memories begin to be limited, except those that support anxiety, trauma, or stress. In other words, the only memory files available for immediate and deliberate access are failure, threat, and danger. Unfortunately, memories of success, certainty, and security are either inaccessible or buried deep within the memory.

While examining how the anxiety mechanism works in the brain, we discussed the neuroscientific dimension of anxiety. However, these are not the only factors that cause anxiety, there are many factors such as personality, gender, early life experiences, unresolved experiences, problem-solving skills, family, schemas, age. Anxiety is also important in the way we interpret it. It is not events that affect people, but how they interpret events. We activate our thoughts by interpreting them with our schemes. Then our emotions and behaviors are formed. “In therapy, we aim to teach things from different perspectives, how to behave in the face of events, and how to intervene with different coping skills.”

We know a lot about how anxiety works and its psychobiological underpinnings. An abundance of research has led to discovering effective treatments for different anxiety disorders. For example, there are very effective treatments for phobias, social anxiety and panic disorders. If you know someone who suffers from anxiety, Let them know that they don’t have to live in psychological pain.The combined application of medication and therapy (especially cognitive behavioral therapy) is shown as the most permanent treatment method in many academic publications. Successful treatments protect a person’s relationships, career, and self-confidence. Take the first step today!

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