Some degree of anxiety is perfectly normal. We all experience situations where we may feel fear and apprehension. However, there are some people who feel anxious even when there is no discernible cause. In these cases, the anxiety usually becomes overwhelming and may interfere with the normal functioning of one’s life. People who suffer from a debilitating level of anxiety are suffering from an anxiety disorder. Negative emotional patterns, anger, fear, stress and anxiety all contribute to degenerative illness such as cancer, heart disease etc..
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal physical reaction to an internal or external demand that is placed on your system. The human body reacts to most stressful situations with the “fight or flight” response where it is flooded with stress hormones. These hormones make the heart pump faster, the breathing rate increase, and the muscles tense up. This is the body’s way of gearing up for imminent physical activity. However, a person who suffers from an anxiety disorder may experience chronic and recurrent episodes of anxiety that have no discernible cause. These episodes can last for days, weeks, or even months. Sometimes, an anxiety disorder may stem from a definite trigger such as childhood abuse or witnessing the event of war. But in other situations, hormonal or chemical changes in the brain or environmental factors cause an anxiety disorder to develop.
What Causes Anxiety?
There are several parts of the brain that are involved in the development of anxiety. Scientists have performed research using brain imaging technologies and neurochemical techniques to discover the network of interacting events that are responsible for anxiety. Most of the activity appears to be centered around the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure deep within the brain. Many researchers feel that the amygdala acts as a sort of central “hub” that processes and interprets different signals to and within the brain. The amygdala controls the storage of emotional memories, therefore, it may play a central role in the development of anxiety disorders such as phobias, and post traumatic stress disorder.
The hiccocampus is another area of the brain that is likely to be involved in anxiety disorders. This part of the brain is responsible for processing threatening or traumatic stimuli. It helps to encode information into memories. People who have undergone severe stress, such as military combat or childhood abuse, have a smaller hiccocampus than people who have not experienced such a traumatic event. The smaller size may explain the fragmented memory, flashbacks, and memory deficits of those who develop post traumatic stress disorder.
Scientists are using this information to understand more about anxiety disorders and how they develop. In studies of twins and family members, researchers have determined that genetics does play some role in the development of an anxiety disorder. But life experience is also certainly a factor. Researchers are hoping to discover how genetics and experience interact in each of the anxiety disorders. They can then use this information to develop appropriate methods of prevention and treatment.
The Costs of Anxiety
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Do you experience unexpected panic attacks, during which you are overcome with fear for no apparent reason?
Are you preoccupied with thoughts or images that you can’t get out of your mind (such as burning down the house, or being contaminated by germs)?
Do you become terrified in public settings and social settings involving unfamiliar people?
Do you experience shortness of breath or heart palpitations for no apparent physical reason?
Do you spend an excessive amount of time each day doing things over and over again (for example, hand washing, checking things, or counting)?
Are you terrified at an inappropriate level of a particular object or situation (such as spiders, heights, water, or dogs)?
Do you feel restless, easily distracted, tense, irritable, and exhausted?
Does your level of anxiety interfere with your daily life?
Are you plagued by the memory of a traumatic event such as a car accident, childhood abuse, or a natural disaster?
Have you experienced changes in sleeping or eating habits?
Getting Help For Anxiety
After reading this information, you may feel that you are suffering from an anxiety disorder. A visit to your natural health care professional is the best way to begin treating your anxiety. A physician can evaluate your medical history and your symptoms to determine whether the symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, some other medical condition, or both.