Over 18 million people suffer from anxiety disorder. You CAN find help! About 9 in 10 individuals who seek anxiety treatment report feeling better.
Although there are many different forms of anxiety disorders (and anxiety treatment), the general definition for anxiety is:
“a vague, unpleasant and sometimes debilitating emotion that is experienced in anticipation of some misfortune. ”
The misfortune is usually ill-defined, meaning that it is hard to pinpoint the actual reason for what is causing the anxiety. Although many people suffer from anxiety in certain situations, the reasons for why they feel the way they do are generally difficult to identify. Most people understand that they have anxiety. What is difficult to understand is WHY the anxiety has such a strong hold on their life.
The cause of anxiety disorder has been studied for decades. There are various reasons for feeling the way that you do. First, it is important to understand which form of anxiety disorder you may have. Please read: Types of Anxiety to learn more about the various anxiety related emotional disturbances you might be experiencing.
Researchers have been studying the effects of anxiety on the brain and have found much insight into how it effects us. Modern studies indicate that as a result of past, present or perceived circumstances that occurred to an individual, a chemical imbalance may have occurred in the brain. The emotions we feel are based on the release and reuptake of neurotransmitters in the brain. This is how cells within the brain communicate. Feelings off anxiety are triggered by an imbalance of specific ‘neurochemicals’ in the brain. The specific neurotransmitters that may be affected include serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA and dopamine.
When we feel stressed, anxious or depressed, our brains may be releasing or absorbing (re-uptake) chemicals either too rapidly or too slowly. If left untreated, a chemical imbalance disorder may increase in severity as time passes.
Most modern methods for treating chemical imbalances come in the form of prescription medications. Drugs like Paxil, Prozac and Effexor are believed to have a direct effect on key neurotransmitters. Though these drugs work in about 60% of individuals who take them, patients often report experiencing a wide variety of side effects, and the drug manufacturers themselves aren’t even sure how the drugs actually work to ‘rebalance’ chemicals in the brain. Users of these drugs often report relapse, as the drugs fail to address the underlying causes of anxiety.
The question that needs to be answered before doctors move too hastily in prescribing medications to their patients is : What is the cause of the chemical imbalance?
The Cause of Chemical Imbalance
Some theories suggest that chemical imbalances are a normal part of life. Everyone feels stressed or anxious at times, even depressed. This is a normal response by our body to events occurring around us. It is important to note that the physical or mental feelings we experience and exhibit are being caused by the release of chemicals and hormones in our brains.
As you prepare your schedule for the week, your manager comes into your office and tells you that you need to have a new certification program written and developed for incoming new-hires by the end of the week. “This is a critical part of our new-hire training, and I need it done by Friday, or my boss will have my head… and I’ll have yours!”, he says to you. [maybe not so dramatic]
You reluctantly agree and ensure your manager that you will have the work completed.. As soon as your manager leaves your office, you begin to experience feelings of stress and nervoussness. “I can never finish this…..what is he thinking?……It’s too much work…. I haven’t even started….. I am going to get fired,” and similar thoughts echo through your mind repeatedly for the next 10 minutes. You can feel a headache coming on, you start thinking of worst case scenarios, your face begins to flush, your heart begins to beat more rapidly….. you become angry. “How can he spring this on me with such short notice!”
In the above example, your body begins to physically respond to your overwhelming thoughts of what might and could go wrong. A common occurrence, this often happens in stressful situations because our brain begins to overload our body with unbalanced releases of neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals. If we are unable to get rid of the feelings, they progressively worsen over the course of the day, or week, or month.
You begin thinking about some cognitive behavior therapy exercises you learned to help you cope with your stress and anxiety. You realize that your thoughts are causing you to continue to create irrational thinking patterns, which in turn, is causing you to feel physical symptoms of stress and anxiety
“I have been writing training material for years. I bet if I check all of the resources I already have, I can find some things that can help me get this project completed. I am a professional, and I have successfully handled these deadlines before.”
You provide yourself with evidence that you are not helpless in this situation, and that chances are, if you organize yourself, you can get this done. Over the course of 5 – 15 minutes, you reinforce yourself with overwhelming reasons for why you can do it. You begin to take notes and jot down plans for the project.
As you begin to cope with the stresses that presented themselves, your body starts returning to normal chemical states. Physical, and emotional symptoms begin to diminish. You are able to cope with the stress.
In most cases, we are able to develop coping techniques that can help us to immediately deal with the stress and the imbalance of chemicals that happen as a result. However, if we do not cope with the stresses that present themselves today, our negative feelings, emotions and thoughts take hold and might never let go.
Though the examples provided above are very basic, they demonstrate an approach to resolving anxiety based on addressing the underlying causes. Chemical imbalances may very well be caused by the fact that we have not yet found ways to cope with our underlying problems. Over time, the imbalance may become our brain’s normal setting, thus causing stress, anxiety or depression consistently, and for long periods of time.
Click here to learn more about chemical imbalances and the current theories of what actually causes them. The causes of anxiety related disorders like social anxiety and panic attacks can not be summed up in a simple chemical definition and overview like the one you have read above. Learning more about the underlying causes of chemical imbalance can help you find real treatment methods that can help.