While the emotions of anxiety and worry are present in every person’s life, understanding how the human brain reacts to these emotions can be important to overall general health. People may alter their behaviors because of these feelings, even to the point of obsession. As research has shown, however, anxious behaviors can be the result of physiological changes in a person’s brain.
According to Dr. Thomas A. Richards of the Social Anxiety Institute, feelings of anxiety and depression can cause or result from chemical imbalances in the brain. In most anxiety cases, a person will alter his or her behavior to avoid certain situations in an effort to gain comfort in his life. The root of this anxiety can stem from an irrational or skewed social belief system, a traumatic psychological event, or physical pain earlier in life. When a person goes through one of these experiences, chemical hormones are secreted in the brain as a response to external stimuli. These hormones will continue to be secreted by the brain in an effort to comfort the body, often to the point of over-secretion. Over a long period of time, the brain can be altered as a result of this over-secretion. In these cases, psychiatric medication many be needed to help regulate the brain’s chemistry and relieve anxiety.
In addition to chemical processes being changed within the brain due to a traumatic event, neurological pathways can also be affected. As Dr. Richards explains, all people learn in a similar physiological way: their brain develops neurological connections, or pathways, in order to recall learned information. For example, when a person is learning to ride a bike, trial and error will eventually lead to successful balance while pedaling. As this activity is practiced regularly, the brain will recall how to move the body more easily and fluidly with each additional attempt, forming a “habit”. Learning how and when to feel anxiety is learned in the same way, according to Dr. Richards, since the brain can also form pathways as a result of repeated irrational thoughts.
Fight or Flight Response
Whenever a person is placed in a stressful situation, their brain will immediately begin signaling muscles in the body via electric impulses across the cerebral cortex. This response, known as the “fight or flight” response, then triggers the body to either defend itself or escape th situation. For people who have had significant traumatic events in their lives, this response mechanism can become altered. As the Anxiety Disorder Resource Center website suggests, the electrical signals that are sent across the brain can be triggered by a memory of the traumatic event and cause a physiological response.
In most cases, severe anxiety or depression can be treated with therapy or psychiatric medication. The best brain supplements must be taken with care and supervision of your doctor. Individuals who believe they may have an anxiety disorder would be best served to speak to their doctor for a referral to additional professional help.