The Anxious Brain
Fear and anxiety are responses to stressful situations, such as going for a job interview, starting the first day of school, or making an important presentation. It is important to note that stress can be good because it can motivate you to deal with challenges and stimulate action or creativity. However, when the anxiety is so intense and interferes with your everyday life, it is a cause of concern.
Frequenct anxiety has significant impacts on the brain development. In the past, researchers believed that only a particular part of the brain plays a role in stress. However, there have been more findings of how interaction from different brain parts affects how people experience anxiety.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that lets people know if they are facing a potentially "dangerous" or stressful situation. When people are anxious, the amygdala becomes active. However, if a person is constantly feeling anxious, the amygdala becomes overactive and keeps sending false alarms, even for a less anxiety-provoking situation. It increases the severity of the anxiety, which explains why people with severe anxiety are always hyper-vigilant.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that is rational and logical. It helps people to process information and make sound decisions. Persistent anxiety weakens the brain's signals and can prevent the prefrontal cortex from being notified to help you make a rational decision. Therefore, people are usually not in the right frame of mind to make an important decision when feeling overwhelmed.
The hippocampus is involved in memory and the neuroendocrine regulation of stress hormones. Hippocampal functions, such as learning and memory, are susceptible to disruption by stress. Therefore, people may easily recollect stressful and painful memories of trauma, failure, threat and danger. Therefore, people may easily recall distressing experiences filled with trauma and high emotions more vividly than memories of success and joy.
It is impossible to eliminate anxiety and some form of stress can be helpful. However, if you are constantly feeling anxious and hypervigilant, please consult a professional before it worsens. A counsellor or psychotherapist can process your thoughts, emotions and behaviours and help you find ways to cope with the anxiety.
At Restoring Peace Counselling & Consultancy, we provide counselling and psychotherapy services for various anxiety-related conditions. For more information, please visit www.restoringpeace.com.sg or Whatsapp us at +65 8889 1848.
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