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How Anxiety Affects the Brain

How Anxiety Affects the Brain

Anxiety can trigger a host of unsettling thoughts and feelings that make it hard to get through each day. Anxiety has been shown to make noticeable changes to brain chemistry and structure. Prolonged bouts of anxious thoughts and behavior can trigger more complex health conditions when left untreated.

Getting the right care and support will make it easier to overcome your anxious thoughts and feelings. It is possible to learn how to sit with anxiety to move forward with the emotion in a more balanced way. Life has anxious, stressful, frustrating, joyful, and magical moments. Although challenging emotions aren’t fun to deal with, it is possible to learn how to cope in healthier ways.

Anxiety can be a challenging experience to manage on your own, but there is support available for you whenever you are ready to reach out. There are helpful connections and resources available to help you manage and overcome overwhelming anxiety. Bringing peace and balance into your life is achievable when you find the right support for yourself.

What Is Anxiety?

Understanding anxiety is the first step to identifying and addressing it. According to Harvard Health, anxiety is considered to be a typical human experience. Anxiety is classified as general physical and emotional distress accompanied by mild symptoms of worry, fear, or panic.

Consider the most common symptoms of anxiety:

  • Changes in breathing patterns, typically increased
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Poor sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of irritability, impending doom, worry, etc.

Anxiety is considered problematic when these feelings become persistent and long-lasting, affecting a person’s daily thoughts, feelings, and habits.

Although anxiety itself isn’t a bad experience, having a dysregulated experience with anxiety can be harmful to your health. In the long run, these sporadic and intense physiological experiences that come with increased anxiety can wreak havoc on the mind and body if left untreated.

How Does Anxiety Affect the Brain?

Understanding the direct and prolonged impact of anxiety on the mind and body can help you address and manage symptoms better. Finding healthy ways to cope with and process anxiety can make the experience less intense.

With noticeable effects on the brain’s chemistry, anxiety will inherently impact the body as well. There are short- and long-term side effects of regular or chronic episodes of anxiety and its related symptoms.

Over time, anxiety impacts the brain in the following ways:

  • Increases stress, affecting the entire nervous system
  • Alters functioning of the emotional processing or limbic system
  • Hijacks the autonomic nervous system (ANS), impacting regular hormonal functions
  • Alters functioning of the frontal lobe, affecting cognition

Stress Hormones

Experiencing occasional spikes in stress hormones is a part of a healthy and typical human life. When stress hormones override the body regularly, such as with chronic stress or anxiety, it is possible to experience additional physical and mental health complications. Chronic and high levels of stress hormones can wreak havoc on one’s physical health by increasing the probability of osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, and other long-term health conditions.

Limbic System

The limbic system is the emotional processing center of the brain. When triggered regularly, the limbic system can alter our senses, such as temperature regulation and resilience to stress. The amygdala, which controls many of these limbic functions, will exhibit many unprecedented changes due to repeated exposure to anxiety and stress. Some of the noticeable changes caused by amygdala dysregulation include:

  • Increased breathing and heart rate
  • Symptoms of panic (such as jitters)
  • Poor appetite
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Hypervigilance
  • Distrusting in social situations, difficulty with social interactions

Frontal Lobe

The frontal lobe governs our cognition and emotional behaviors and can also exhibit noticeable and concerning changes to our daily functions and behaviors. Some of the potential symptoms of frontal lobe dysfunction include poor memory and concentration.

Mind and Body Dysregulation

When a person’s “normal” or resting state is to be dysregulated, the mind and body will learn to adapt if our thoughts and emotions are locked into this experience. As a result of the brain and body adapting to dysregulation, other internal systems and organs will start to express dysregulation in an attempt to create some sense of balance.

Being that our bodies are designed to work in harmony with our minds, the mind and body will do whatever they can to help us navigate our experience. Fortunately, it is possible to shape the state of your well-being by tuning into the power of your thoughts and feelings.

Anxiety and Emotional Processing

Prolonged exposure to anxiety impacts the major centers in our brain, which can alter our daily thoughts, feelings, and actions. Anxiety can alter our emotional processing and trigger other complications in our personal lives.

The impact of anxiety on emotional processing can affect how we interact with strangers and loved ones. Overstimulation of our emotional processing centers can also trigger other mental health challenges, such as depression and insomnia.

Chronic dysregulation of our emotional processing center can affect the way we show up each day. Learning how and when to seek help and resources to support your mental health can save you a lifetime of mental and physical health complications. Learning how to process your emotions healthily and harmoniously will help maintain the inner balance that your mind and body need for optimal functioning.

Anxiety is an overwhelming experience. Understanding how much anxiety and stress hormones can alter the mind and body can make it easier to accept that support is needed to overcome life’s challenges. Fortunately, there is help, and the right help is tailored to you and your unique circumstances.

Anxiety can be an overwhelming experience, making it challenging to manage your day-to-day experience. Physically, the brain experiences changes in the short- and long-term trajectory of your health. By experiencing and maintaining the same patterns, you lock yourself into a certain experience. Over time, it is possible to see a decline in overall health and well-being if symptoms from anxiety and other health concerns remain unaddressed. Finding the proper support and treatment to inspire and encourage growth will help you overcome any anxiety that you may experience. Learning how to cope with life and its challenges in healthy and meaningful ways is achievable and accessible. Connect with Mindfuli’s caring team members at (866) 973-4415 for mental health support today. 

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