Low serotonin , caused by a genetic defect, is one of the most recently discovered examples. Does this sound like you? Take the somatic awareness quiz. And how common is this gene?
How Stress and Anxiety Affect the Brain
Ten percent! Read more. And of course anxiety is a risk factor for insomnia! Robert Sapolsky explains. Vicious circle. Chronic pain is extremely common, and can be both a cause and consequence of anxiety — sometimes equally, sometimes slanted much more one way than the other, but each always influencing the other to some degree. For many people with both anxiety and pain, solving the pain is the best possible treatment for the anxiety. Others must solve both at once. And a few will find that pain is just one of many ways that they are haunted by anxiety demons.
Spinal cord irritation is a particularly disturbing example, with a strong tie-in to chronic pain: some people may be anxious because they have irritated spinal cords, which occurs in some arthritic necks and can cause the body to react as if it were stressed. Which is not actually all that rare, believe it or not. Imagine for a moment the absurdity and futility of spending thousands on counselling to try to learn to be less anxious when your anxiety has a simple-in-principle medical cause like this. Anxiety can be magnificently destructive, but when combined with chronic pain it becomes paralyzing.
Being told to calm down in the right way, or telling ourselves, can be effective. But most of them are just variations on telling ourselves to calm down, and they are hardly a magic bullet. But there are are other, better ways to calm down. And what if you had professional help with that? If only we had thought about being more positive! How silly of us.
Cognitive behavioural therapy CBT [Wikipedia] is a dominant force in psychotherapy and the most common treatment approach for anxiety. CBT is widely considered to be a proven therapy for anxiety, and some specific types have especially firm foundations. You should probably keep reading. Which is why a more accessible iCBT option is intriguing. And its most common weakness in practice seems to be an unfortunate overemphasis on the thinking part — using conscious thought as leverage.
Thinking may be what gets us anxious in the first place, and it may be hard to fight fire with fire, hard to use calming thoughts to subdue or replace worried thoughts. Or, worse, worried thoughts may over time become embodied, so entrenched in our behaviour and biology that they are no longer just thoughts — and fresh attempts to think less worried thoughts may have little impact, especially at first. The famous fight-or-flight response is a biological response to acute threats, and is more common in anxious people but not synonymous with anxiety.
Panic attack - Wikipedia
But that same response, which evolved to deal with threats like being eaten alive, can be triggered by someone cutting in front of you in traffic. If your brain is complicated enough, it can trigger the stress response with completely abstract threats or even imaginary ones. But exactly how we respond to stresses — whether it's the threat of disembowelment or failing a driver's test — is as complicated as personality.
Someone suffering from chronic and excessive feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease is not necessarily in a panic. The anxious person is more likely to spend more time in this mode, either because they actually face more threats, or because they perceive more threats than there really are. But we can also worry about threats without ever actually experiencing one. My own childhood was a textbook case of that. There are other ways to respond to acute stress. There is also the much less famous tend-and-befriend response , for instance, a different behavioural strategy in which threats are dealt with more socially: tending to children, or seeking out the safety of the group and befriending people.
Stress pushes us to perform, and so anxiety can be helpful — to a point, after which we get a bit … messy.
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And yet we do know that extreme stress is probably a strong risk factor for developing chronic widespread pain. How are we getting from A to B? He expresses deep contempt for how the idea of ruinous stress has been used to sell miracle cures, telling desperate people that they can recover from serious diseases like cancer with various psychological and stress-reduction hacks. Or it could be much more complex: for instance, people who suffer severe stress are probably more likely to do poorly in their next phase of life, losing income, status, security, friendships and romances, which opens up many possible paths to illness and pain.
Or the study might have gotten it wrong. Todd Hargrove:.
There is evidence that chronic emotional stress predicts injury. Stress after an injury predicts greater difficulty in return to play. These findings are especially notable in light of the inability of various biomechanical screening tests to accurately predict injury risk. Interestingly, subjective measures of stress level, which are obtained by simply asking an athlete about their readiness to train, are better reflections of actual training load than objective measures like hormone levels or markers of inflammation.
Of course not. No — that phrase implies mental illness or faking it. And yet, sadly, some health care professionals may not understand this, and some of them may equate psychosocial factors with mental illness and malingering — all the same thing in their heads.
Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down
The anxious state is very cerebral. When Lauren Marks had a stroke, she woke up days later in the hospital without her words — aphasia , a bizarre loss of language due to brain injury — and without anxiety, either. Lauren had no internal monologue, and a vocabulary of only about forty strangely random words, but rather than being panicked by this state of affairs, she was blissfully ignorant of all her problems, because she did not have labels for them anymore.
She felt calm and content. She did not have the vocabulary to worry. I did. Now if only there was a way to harmlessly and temporarily induce aphasia! As heady as it is, anxiety also quite physical. All chronically stressed mammals have too many glucocorticoids — stress hormones — floating around. Of course, as already discussed, this probably has many adverse effects, and constitutes a medical hazard, including a risk of more pain.
Anxiety can be a recent and sometimes surprisingly subtle development in life, at odds with a much older self-image. Because of the stigma against anxiety, most of us try to hide it. Psychosomatic disorders are physical symptoms that mask emotional distress. The very nature of the physical presentation of the symptoms hides the distress at its root, so it is natural that those affected will automatically seek a medical disease to explain their suffering.
And we use muscular tension, stillness, and a lack of breath — like a rabbit freezing to hide from a predator — to try to manage the churning and sinking sensations in the belly that come with worry, to hide them from ourselves and our friends and family. These processes are so physical and habitual that they are difficult or impossible to interrupt by force of will. It is likely that some troubles will befall us; but it is not a present fact. How often has the unexpected happened! How often has the expected never come to pass! And even though it is ordained to be, what does it avail to run out to meet your suffering?