The impact of anxiety on the brain is enormous.Cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine put us on alert and make us feel defensive. Our mind is quickly invaded by irrational thoughts, a fear that devours and paralyzes. It is also inhabited by those emotions that, like a night without a moon or stars, completely darken our reality. Few psychological states can be so intense.
Demographic studies tell us that many people live with chronic anxiety. Unable to see that there is another way of feeling and dealing with reality, they let themselves be carried by this war horse without knowing how to react. Others, on the other hand, live what is known as situational anxiety. Speaking in public, having a job interview or exam, or even bonding with people are examples of times when the red flag of danger is raised. Needless to say, this limits us enormously.
"Fear sharpens the senses, anxiety paralyzes them."
We have all met anxiety in our lives.This natural human response which, if we respect the right doses, can act as a motivating force, escapes us very often.She finally took control of our lives, without even realizing it. And when that happens, everything is distorted and collapsed, as in a Kandisky painting.
The impact of anxiety on the brain
To better understand the impact of anxiety on the brain, we must first know how to differentiate it from something.We are of course referring to stress.For example, the latter responds to a physiological activation process that arises as a result of multiple external factors. In other words, there is always something that triggers it in the present moment. Work pressure, too much to do, family problems, etc. All of this occurs when we realize that we are "short of resources" to cope with all these stimuli.
Anxiety is a little more complex.If it is true that it can often arise as a result of stress, we must admit that we sometimes feel this emotion without knowing why.It is an internal thing, something that breaks out several times and at different times. We are facing a physiological response that prepares us to flee or fight a threat (real or not).
Anxiety is intrinsically different from stress. It is also more difficult to managebecause of the way she orchestrates herself in our brain.Let's study that more closely.
The amygdala is a small structure in the back of our brain.It is she who processes and interprets all the sensory signals that come from our environment. It is also she who warns the brain when a threat or danger appears. It represents a little instinctive sensor (sometimes irrational) that makes us react to fears as common as spiders, darkness, height …
The hippocampus is the part of the brain connected to our emotional memory.If the impact of anxiety on the brain is intense and sustained over time, this structure is one of the first to suffer. Indeed, its size is reduced and we suffer serious effects associated with this alteration. Memory loss, concentration problems or even post-traumatic stress become common. This effect is common in children who have suffered from maltreatment, permanent fear, anxiety, a constant sensation of danger …
Moreover, only a few months ago, a discovery as interesting as hopeful was published in the journal "Neuron".The cells responsible for the anxiety were found to be localized in the hippocampus.We hope to develop more precise drugs to regulate its activity.
Cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline
Anxiety, a sense of alarm, tension in the muscles or tachycardia are the effects of the action of very concrete neurotransmitters.The impact of anxiety on our brain is due to this infallible (and scary) conjunction of cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline.
While the amygdala was responsible for identifying the danger, these neurotransmitters prompt us to react. The brain wants us to defend ourselves, escape, react … And this is done by sending more blood into the muscles. By accelerating the heart, bringing more air to the lungs …
This state of alarm can help us in very concrete moments but only when the threat is "real".However, when this is not the case and when this physiological activation is constant, problems arise. Poor digestion, headaches, hypertension, risk of stroke …
What can we deal with the impact of anxiety on our brain?
As we pointed out at the beginning, anxiety is a physiological answer. It is not enough to say "calm down, everything will be fine".If our brain thinks there is a danger, our reasoning will not help much.Therefore, it is recommended to pay attention to physiological, organic and bodily points.
- You must convince your body that there is no threat.How? By practicing relaxation or deep breathing. Put your body on "break" so that your brain is quiet too.
- Take advantage of anxiety.Managing anxiety is not a problem of strength of will.It is not a matter of making this psycho-physiological reality disappear from our brain. It's about using what it brings us in our favor. To visualize this idea and achieve it, we can use artistic therapies. For example, painting is a way of giving shape to this anxiety. Like a devouring monster, it can shrink, become more harmless …
- New habits, new routines.Sometimes making changes to our daily lives can be very effective. Go for a walk, see a concert every week, meet new people, do yoga … All of this can change the alarm perception of our brain. He will be able to see things in another way.
Finally, do not hesitate to consult a professional if this state of anxiety is stronger than us.Nobody deserves to live in fear. No one must live permanently in the clutches of this chronic anxiety that darkens everything.