Everyone deals with anxiety on a regular basis. Otherwise termed as nervousness, anxiety is considered a very normal human reaction to a tense situation like giving a speech in front of a crowd or attending an interview. However, for some, the condition tends to translate into a stronger force that is hard to manage.
While getting rid of anxiety is impossible, one can take measures to transform it into a healthy part of his/her life and manage it more efficiently. All it takes is a simple understanding of how to cope with the condition better and prevent it from becoming unhealthy and taking over one’s life. For that, it is imperative that we first understand what happens to the brain during an anxiety attack as well as how the condition would affect us in the long run if not managed properly.
Brain recognizes anxiety first
Although the first sensation we tend to feel when anxious is that unsteady knot in our stomach and a feeling of increased awareness of the immediate surroundings, it is our brain that goes to work first during an anxiety attack. The brain then sends the appropriate signals to the rest of the body via an adrenaline boost of cortisol and norephinephrine. These substances in turn, boost the body’s reflexes and speed considerably. Individuals who are anxious would thus, experience elevated heart rates, pulse rates, and breathlessness until the feeling passes and their bodies come back to normal.
Another theory that also attributes the brain to work first during an anxiety attack relates the cognitive functioning of the brain to the heightened senses an individual experiences during this period. The theory states that anxiety can lead to cognitive distortions in the brain, which would in turn lead to irrational thoughts that convince the body into thinking that everything around it is a potential threat.
Anxiety damages the brain
Irrespective of these theories, it needs to be understood that anxiety like any other emotion, is something that does not need to be turned on constantly. The body’s stress response has to be engaged only when needed and then disengaged appropriately. Failing to do so will lead to a constant nervousness that would keep the brain and body alert, awake and on edge continuously. This can in the long run, can damage the brain in addition to affecting the quality of life considerably.
Individuals who tend to suffer from constant anxiety tend to do so either because of genetics or upbringing (being brought up in an anxious, stress filled environment). These individuals also feel stressed constantly because their body and mind become wired to be on high alert at all time and be wary of potential threats that could spring up at any time from any place. As such, even the slightest change in emotion (real or imagined) can lead to an anxiety attack. The continuous restlessness would affect the brain’s normal functions to a great extent. And with time, this pattern of thinking would translate into a regular part of one’s life, becoming a vicious cycle that could destroy his/her life completely.
Warning signs to look out for
How would we know if we are suffering from prolonged anxiety as akin to experiencing a seemingly normal anxiety attack? Experts say that one would need to study the symptoms of an anxiety attack as well as its duration to understand the same. Accordingly, an anxiety attack that doesn’t reduce in intensity or does not go away would indicate a problem. However, this is not as easy as it seems.
For as the experts believe, those who have been living with the condition for a long time would have actually accepted it as a part of their daily lives and so, would not be able to recognize the issue at all until pointed out by someone else. In these cases, the concerned individuals can opt for treatment only after recognizing and understanding that he/she is suffering anxiety disorder.
While anxiety is a common issue in individuals, some tend to experience it constantly. Prolonged anxiety can lead to significant brain and body damage in the long run. Hence, one would need to recognize the warnings signs as and when they start cropping up in order to combat the condition effectively.