What Causes Anxiety in the Brain? How Does it Manifest in the Mind and Body?
It's one thing to experience occasional anxiety. Like before a presentation or first date.
These are momentary because you can get past these thoughts and go back to how it was after the stressful event has passed. And more often than not, this same event that once stressed us out may not have the same impact on our mental health conditions as before.
On the other hand, anxiety disorders are like a hostage situation - where these anxious feelings take control of our wellbeing. Anxiety disorders are a type of mental illness because our mental health then takes the biggest hit.
So, if you think your anxiety seems a bit too intense, it can help to understand what causes anxiety disorders and how it manifests in daily life.
How Does Anxiety Affect the Brain? 🧐
Anxiety usually stems from anxious, negative thoughts that shape our behavior and impact our narrative.
These thoughts become the core or foundation of our being and existence. It dictates our decision-making process, our self-esteem, and our confidence. This pattern then bleeds into our relationships, our careers, and invariably all our life events.
Here's how that happens in our brain and central nervous system-
Whenever we feel anxious or any emotion tbh, the emotional part of the brain areas is at work. And sometimes, this can overpower the rational or cognitive part of the brain. This means we believe what our feelings say over the actual factual truth.
In brain terms, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex dampens the blow of anxiety and fearful signals coming from the amygdala that amplify upon reaching the frontal lobe.
And when this part runs on fumes, that's when we experience anxiety.
Causes and Effects of Anxiety: physical symptoms and mental symptoms 🥶
The thing about our anxiety disorder is that it can root itself in our core.
People with anxiety disorders have been living with anxiety disorder symptoms all through their childhood, which has now shaped their personality traits.
These symptoms can manifest differently to us and can even impact us differently. This is why it's vital to understand anxiety disorders and the impact it has on your mental health
Here is a glimpse of a few physical and mental symptoms of anxiety disorders:
Constant anxiety and stress can increase the risk of amplifying stress hormones, aka cortisol. This puts our heart rate and blood pressure at an increased risk.
Some of us can be can genetically predisposed to anxiety disorders.
This means that people in our family history experienced the same anxiety disorder and will continue to do so. It could also mean that the traditions and cultures that shaped our environments contributed to our stress or overwhelming worry.
This is when genetic and environmental factors contribute to our anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders tend to amplify racing thoughts, affect your present physical health, and cause you a physical illness like irritable bowel syndrome.
Getting back to anxiety disorders, how many are there?
Types of anxiety disorders 🤔
👉🏽 Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is when you experience anxiety symptoms or physical conditions like muscle tension, brain fog, and difficulty concentrating, and you experience anxiety almost throughout the day.
Generalized anxiety disorder can spill into other parts of life where you experience anxiety, specifically at high levels. This is maybe why a one-on-one review at work or deadlines for school submissions can amplify anxiety.
👉🏽 Panic disorder
Panic disorder is when negative thoughts lead to intense heart palpitations and chest pain. This leads to panic attacks. When you feel anxious about an event, maybe due to a past relevant experience of that event causing you to stress beyond what you could control, it can transition into fear and a panic attack.
👉🏽 Social anxiety disorder
This is when social situations specifically cause you intense fear - leading you to behavioral inhibition and making you want to avoid social events altogether.
You're afraid of what people think, and you often have trouble not taking things personally. This makes you think everyone is out to judge you, and it gets tough to manage settings on your stress levels.
👉🏽 Post-traumatic stress disorder
This stems from past traumatic experiences that now induce your anxiety and give you PTSD symptoms, say, avoiding a plane journey due to a past incident with bad turbulence. This fear response tends to cling on to become a stress disorder, another common anxiety disorder.
To read more on anxiety disorders, check: What causes anxiety in the brain? How does it manifest in the mind and body?
How to deal with anxiety disorders 🤗
Regardless of the anxiety disorder, you get to manage anxiety symptoms by understanding your specific triggers and how you'd want to handle them.
For some people with anxiety, a quick walk before a stressful event, say a meeting, can help process their anxious thoughts.
Here are some general ways that help people with anxiety disorders:
🌻 Mental healthcare providers
The recommended way to deal with anxiety disorders and their triggers is with the help of wellness professionals or therapists who have experience dealing with anxious patients.
With their treatment plan centric on human emotions, you get to learn how to cope with negative thought patterns that lead to unhealthy behaviors, regardless of the anxiety disorders. This is primarily done with the help of a tool - cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
With being - the world's first-of-kind self-therapy app, you get to access these tools without having to go through the hassle of booking appointments or rescheduling them.
Check out this mini guided session to start with - I am feeling anxious right now.
🍳 Healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle would mean prioritizing your mental and physical health regarding what you eat and how wholesome your daily routines are.
Did you know that foods with Vit-D, selenium, and Omega-3 work to combat mental illnesses?
These have anti-inflammatory qualities and work well with mood-related cells in the brain. This means that adding nuts, fish, eggs, and leafy greens to your diet can improve sleep, ability to focus, and overall good mental well-being!
Dark chocolate, yogurt, and chamomile also boost serotonin and dopamine (this helps regulate mood, sleep, and overall brain pleasure) and help the body's reaction to anxiety triggers and symptoms.
Oh- don't forget to stay hydrated!
Sip on H2O and ditch the caffeine if you can.
Want to make this a more of a mindful activity? Check this mini guided session out - I want to take a mindful water break.
The other part of a healthy lifestyle is rest and sleep. A common symptom of increased anxiety is not getting enough sleep.
Did you know sleep loss can also lead to declining emotional wellness?
Fortunately, with being, you get to not only access sessions that can help you sleep but ones that can also help de-stress before bedtime. Check out this mini guided session on being - I want to release the stress from my body before sleep
💜 Positive affirmation
Your thought processes hold more power over our actions than you understand.
We're so used to our anxiety response of over thinking or over analyzing every word or every situation.
This outcome of this is what our brain floods with - anxiety.
So here's what to do:
Take stock of all the self-deprecating thoughts that affect your mental peace.
We’re talking about “I’m not good enough” and “ I’m a failure” thoughts.
Next, you will intentionally interrupt those thoughts, replacing them with truths and affirmations.
These are positive statements with the intent of self-love and emotional support to promote healthy behavioral changes, helping to get rid of fear and worry.
With being, you get to keep track of how you talk to yourself; check this mini guided therapy; I want to pay attention to my negative self-talk.
So to conclude 🥰
Your journey towards a state of calm is unique to you.
The lesser ambiguity around anxiety disorders, the better it gets to work towards your mental health condition.
This way, our anxiety disorders, and their symptoms can be overcome when we unlearn the unhealthy habits we used to cope with, like - avoiding situations that trigger our anxiety disorders instead of challenging and equipping ourselves with ways to face those situations anyway.
In the interim, let being be that friend walk through this journey with you - with the mini guided therapies and sessions designed by mental health specialists, you get to access tools to bring calm at any time and place.
Breathe, you got this!
This is not a substitute for therapy. Consult your nearest mental health professional for any mental health conditions like generalized anxiety disorder or other mental health conditions like major depressive disorder. It's a google search away!