Anxiety (how it affects the body) can be defined as a state of apprehension which affects day-to-day life. Someone suffering with anxiety will find it hard to stop worrying even when the worry is out of proportion. Persistent anxiety can cause mental disorders and be the trigger of panic attacks..

In this film, the effects of anxiety on the body is explained.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are very common mental health conditions. They are even more common than depression. Like other mental health disorders, anxiety has both an emotional and a so-called brain/body or neurobiological component.

Research has shown that there are a number of factors within the chemistry of the brain that contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder. As is the case with depression, researchers believe that low levels of Serotonin can contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder. Serotonin is a hormone that is created in different parts of the body including the brain and the intestines.

It acts as a vassal constrictor meaning it causes blood vessels to become narrower thereby helping to regulate blood flow. The other important role of Serotonin is that of a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters carry messages between the nerve cells of the brain called neurons. When neurotransmitters are released, they help control a wide variety of bodily functions including movement, heart rate, sleep, thinking, reasoning or even your mood.

How neurotransmitters affect anxiety

Here’s how neurotransmitters work. Each neuron is composed of Axons, Dendrites and cell bodies. An electrical impulse moves down the axon, a long slender tube that functions like an antenna and is transferred to neurotransmitters such as Serotonin or Dopamine. The neurotransmitter than travels across a synapse or gap to a dendrite of another neuron which receives the transmitter and absorbs it into its cell body. Under normal circumstances there is just the right amount of a neurotransmitter sent across the gap to communicate with other neurons.

But in those suffering an anxiety disorder a few abnormalities can occur the first that not enough of the neurotransmitter Serotonin is produced in the body to help regulate mood. The second takes place when Serotonin doesn’t travel as easily from one neuron to another resulting in a low amount of Serotonin in the synaptic gap.

A third possibility is that lower amounts of Serotonin in the brain affect the production of other neurotransmitters like neuropenephrine. Neuropenephrine is the underlying hormone released during flight or fight and controls the body’s response to stress.

What affects our mood?

Medical experts aren’t entirely sure why Serotonin affects mood in the way that it does but a number of medical studies have shown that by increasing the amount of Serotonin in the brain of people suffering from depression or anxiety their symptoms can be alleviated. There are a number of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs on the market that can help raise Serotonin levels.

Studies have shown that there are two key areas of the brain that play a role in anxiety disorders, the Hippocampi and the Amygdali. There are two hypocampi each located in the temporal lobes, one of their functions is to help control emotions and memory.

The Hippocampi also influence how good or bad we feel about people, places and events. Using brain scan imagery researchers have found that on average anxiety sufferers have smaller hippocampi than others. The other areas of the brain that may be affected by those suffering from an anxiety disorder are the Amygdali. The amygdali are small almond shaped groups of neurons located deep inside each of the two temporal lobes.

The amygdali are responsible for processing external sensory signals and communicating messages to other parts of the brain that interpret these signals. When an outside threat is present the amygdali are often the first to process it and communicate to the rest of the brain that immediate action is required.

Recent research has shown that the amygdali in children with an untreated anxiety disorder are smaller than those who are receiving treatment though experts aren’t sure why they believe that the size of both the Hippocampi and the amygdali has some kind of relationship to anxiety, depression and even ADHD.

Medical researchers continue to work on finding out more about the possible biological causes of anxiety. New drug therapies are currently being developed to help people better cope with this very common disease.

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