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Anxiety is very hard to explain to people that do not have it. I always describe it to someone like this: You know that feeling when a big test is coming up, that feeling of uncertainty, the feeling that you are going to fail? Anxiety feels like that, but all the time, and nothing will make it go away, whereas the test feeling will typically go away once the test being done or you’ve studied enough. I decided to do a little research about what the difference is in the anxious brain versus the normal brain.  

A common misconception about anxiety is that it is basically fear. According to the dictionary, fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.” Fear is right in front of you, while anxiety is a sort of a fear that has gone wild. Anxiety is something that is not in front of you like fear is — anxiety is all the things that aren’t.

While doing research, I have found that anxious people are just more wired to worry, per say. The anxious brain is always preparing for the worst situations. The psychological brain state, the way an individual describes the feeling and the behavior that feeling leads to, is very different for a person with anxiety. One person might describe the hyper aroused brain state in a negative way (anxiety) while another might just describe it as alert. Not every feeling sparks the same reaction. No matter how hard you try to suppress the feeling in public, there is always that rattle in your head. When this overwhelming feeling starts to inhibit everyday activities, then that is when it turns into a clinical anxiety disorder.

In the brain, these feelings are traced to the over reactivity of the amygdala, right hemisphere, and the hypothalamus. The amygdala is known to be the core neural system for processing fearful and threatening stimuli. The hypothalamus controls a lot of the hormones that run through the body. Over reactivity in the right hemispheres are associated with greater increase in heart and pupil dilation in response to stress and levels of stress hormones. When these three parts of the brain work normally, it orchestrates a physiological response to changes in the environment. When you suffer from anxiety, there are heightened memories of emotional experiences and a hyperactive flight or fight response that causes hormones to be released in the body.

With that being said, the brain alone does not make the disorder. The brain state exists and the “I’m anxious” feeling exists. You can have the same level of anxiety all the time, but environmental and subjective influences create the reaction to the brain state you have. Even though there are many things that are not under your physical control, there are things you can do to help yourself. Medication and therapy are the two biggest things you can do to help influence the way you react to situation.

I will leave you with this one final thought — you are not alone! Never ever!

Hi! My name is Gillian Carter. I am from Monument, Colorado (meaning I love the mountains). I am attending the University of Utah to study Recreational Therapy in hope of going to PT school after I finish my bachelors degree. I love doing anything outdoors, reading, getting coffee, and being with my friends and family! I have always had a love for writing so I hope you guys enjoy :)
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