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How Does Anxiety Affect the Brain?
Studies indicate that roughly one in seven Indians experience mental disorders in varying degrees in the past two years, with depression and anxiety being the most common. Statistics show that 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and another 38 million suffer from anxiety disorders.
Before diving into the details, let us first understand what exactly is anxiety.
A differentiating characteristic of anxiety disorders is that they involve excessive fear or anxiety. It is often associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior in people suffering from anxiety.
People with these disorders may avoid situations and places that make them feel trapped, helpless, panicked, embarrassed, or scared. This may affect their ability to perform well at work, in school, or in relationships. Mental disorders in general affect a majority of the population, especially anxiety disorders. People who suffer from anxiety disorder are always anxious and fearful.
Your brain releases stress hormones continuously when you have anxiety or panic attacks for a long time. Symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and depression may occur as a result.
Now that we know what exactly is anxiety, it’s time to understand its effects.
Anxiety and its effects on the brain
The effects of anxiety on the brain are fascinating. Despite the fact that anxiety is such a common condition, many people are unaware of its effects on the brain.
Anxiety is our brain’s way of warning us that we are in danger. When the brain perceives that you are in danger, it releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. While stress has its place and can help us react in dangerous situations, too much anxiety can have unintended consequences on our brains.
1. Effect on short-term memory
There’s a scientific explanation for why you forget things during stressful times. Chronic anxiety causes the hippocampus, which he refers to as the “memory center of the brain,” to shrink.
The impact of anxiety on the hippocampus has been well documented, and chronic anxiety can cause forgetfulness and confusion. It’s important to note that this is more common in people with chronic anxiety than in people who are stressed on a regular basis.
2. Anxiety makes you impulsive
When people are anxious, they can make rash decisions. This is due in part to cortisol’s influence on the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for assisting us in making decisions, is disengaged by cortisol.
This can lead to rash decisions, irritability, and impulsive behavior. So, the next time you’re worried, it might be a good idea to postpone any major decisions.
3. It can lead to depression
Anxiety and depression are two disorders that, while distinct, frequently coexist.
Anxiety can often lead to depression symptoms.
An anxiety disorder can commonly trigger depression, according to the Mayo Clinic, and anxiety is typically a symptom of depression. Treatments for these conditions are also similar, primarily psychological counseling. If you’re having trouble coping with depression or anxiety symptoms, it’s time to seek professional help.
4. Your anxiety may be influenced by your upbringing
Many factors influence whether or not a person suffers from anxiety, ranging from the environment to genetics. Many popular studies, including one published in Child Development, show that how you were raised may have a significant impact on your anxiety.
Nurturing mothers have babies with more cortisol receptors, which stick to cortisol and dampen the stress response, according to studies. Negative mothers raised children who were more sensitive to life’s stresses.
5. It can cause insomnia
Nothing is more frustrating than being anxious at night and unable to sleep.
Anxiety triggers the sympathetic nervous system, which is activated during the fight-or-flight response. This affects the quality and duration of sleep by changing our heart rate, breathing, and brain waves.
Other symptoms of anxiety, include nervousness, an increased heart rate, and rapid breathing. So it’s not just in your head if you’re having trouble sleeping when you’re dealing with anxiety.
6. Impact on the serotonin levels
One of the body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals is serotonin. It has an impact on mood, aggression, sexual desire, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, social desire, and more.
As a result, a change in serotonin levels can affect your mood. Because of the way our serotonin transporter gene interacts with our environment, some people are more likely to develop anxiety and depression.
7. It impacts how sensitive your amygdala is
Because the amygdala collaborates with the rest of your brain to process and store emotions, it may be especially sensitive in people with anxiety disorders.
In the long run, anxiety will be linked to these memories of fictitious dangers, and the brain will essentially create its own fears.
Anxiety can have a wide range of effects on your brain, from releasing hormones to causing insomnia. If you’re experiencing persistent anxiety, seek help from a mental health professional. Learning relaxation and stress management skills can help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
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