How Does Generalized Anxiety Disorder Trick Your Brain Into Thinking There’s Danger?

Anxiety is a natural response to potential or existing danger. As humans have evolved, anxiety has helped us prepare ourselves for potentially harmful situations. Although anxiety can be particularly helpful for personal safety, many people suffer from unnecessary anxiety.

Anxiety that does not serve a useful purpose can cause stress and even depression. Feeling nervous on a regular basis when there is no imminent threat can cause physical and emotional strain. Generalized Anxiety Disorder can actually trick your brain into thinking there is danger when in reality, you’re actually safe.

What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

There are several types of anxiety disorders classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is described as persistent and excessive and can have a damaging impact on emotional health.

By anticipating disaster on a regular basis, this type of anxiety disorder can form a variety of worries. Persistent anxiety about family, work or health are all common issues that those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder face. Not only is the worry consistent, but it may be severe. Some people who are diagnosed with GAD expect the worst case scenario to happen.

Common Symptoms Can Include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or other sleep issues
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Nervousness
  • Nausea or other stomach-related problems
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Easily startled

Fear vs. Anxiety

Fear is usually in response to a specific threat. If you see a wild animal actively walking toward you, fear is a natural feeling that directly correlates to your environment. Anxiety is similar to fear, but is sustained for a much longer period of time. Although the intensity may not be experienced in the same way fear is, anxiety can have a lasting impact on the brain and body.

Anxiety is generally considered to be an anticipatory emotion. If you do not see a wild animal in front of you, but are worried that one could appear, you may be experiencing anxiety instead of fear. Staying with the same example, if you are anxious about a wild animal coming toward you while walking in a shopping mall, the anxiety is real, but the worry is not realistic.

How The Brain Reacts To Anxiety

The amygdala is a part of the brain that manages fear and anxiety. A hyperactive amygdala may be part of the reason that anxiety can become out of control. Other factors include how different parts of the brain respond to each other when in a variety of circumstances.

The cognitive brain takes place in the frontal lobe. This is where sensations and thoughts merge together to make sense of the world. The amygdala is where part of the emotional part of the brain is located. When the emotional part of the brain overwhelms the frontal lobe, anxiety can trick the brain into thinking there’s danger even if there is no rational fear.

Why Do People Experience Anxiety?

Many people who experience fearful situations early in life can get accustomed to anxiety. Their anxiety about what might happen may have been justified. In cases of prolonged trauma or neglect, anxiety may prevent certain danger from occurring. As life circumstances change, however, anxiety is not always necessary to stay safe. This type of anxiety can persist even when there is no danger.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder can affect those who have and haven’t had previous trauma. A sense of constant, low-level anxiety can be genetic. Regardless of the reason, anxiety can interfere with daily functioning if it is not successfully treated.

How To Manage Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There are several tips and methods for relieving anxiety. Meditation is highly recommended for those who suffer from on-going worry. This method of treatment can include guided meditation or free-association writing. Some people find that setting aside a specific time for meditation each day can help calm them even before they start their meditation practice.

Other options include soothing methods such as taking a hot bath and exercise. Many people experience a heightened sense of energy while anxious. Daily cardiovascular exercise can help with restlessness and irritability.

Professional Help

Generalized Anxiety Disorder may be difficult to treat on your own. Professional help is available for those who experience persistent worrying or worrying that may interfere with daily functioning. A variety of talk therapies are available as well as medication to help calm nerves and relax the mind and body. For more information, please contact us at: 833-762-3739.