Anxiety symptoms are activated by a part of the brain stem called the locus ceruleus. When something stressful is sensed, neurons in the locus ceruleus start firing more intensely than usual. Norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter, transports neural messages from the locus ceruleus to the spinal cord and other parts of the brain. Norepinephrine is then released from the nerve endings to act on the heart, blood vessels and respiratory centers, causing the rapid heartbeat, higher blood pressure and quick breathing.
The amygdala and the hippocampus are two parts of the brain that play the most important role in anxiety. The amygdala lies deep within the brain and interprets incoming sensory signals. If there is a threat, it will alert the rest of the brain, including the hippocampus, which creates memories from the threatening event that are then stored back in the amygdala. The amygdala and hippocampus are both responsible for activating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, the system that regulates the stress response.
In the HPA axis, the hypothalamus is the first part of the system to be activated by the amygdala. The hypothalamus then stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to release the stress hormone corticotrophin-releasing hormone, or CRH. CRH then acts on the adrenal cortex to release glucocorticoids, which are hormones that balance the stress response by facilitating its activation and also inhibiting it when the response has been adequate. The amygdala also connects to the periaqueductal gray matter in the brain, which sends signals to the spinal cord to initiate an analgesic response. This can suppress pain in an emergency and initiate defensive actions--for example, when a scared animal freezes up.
I have anxiety and I was diagnosed in 8th grade when my grades started dropping and I started to feel like something was off because I was working the hardest I could in my classes. I actually developed OCD at this time which was my brain's coping method for the anxiety I felt because of my grades and everything else going on at the time. I had a lead in our school musical and after I went on stage I would always struggle to catch my breath. I thought it was just stagefright but when I talked to my friends they didn't describe it in the way that I felt it; or even close. I felt a crushing in the pit of my stomach and a feeling as if I was either going to faint or throw up. After I got off stage I would have to sit down because everything around me was spinning.
I took a psych evaluation because of my dropping grades and because my dad has some learning disorders, like dyslexia (which I was diagnosed with). My friends had an easier time talking to people and I always found myself on the side, alone. It was difficult because sometimes people would tell me "just be more outgoing". It doesn't work that way. You are the way you are and while you should push yourself occasionally, you shouldn't have to change yourself to make friends. I apologized all the time, essentially for everything I did and people got annoyed and would say, "you don't really mean it then when you say it because you say it all the time." It wasn't something that I did on purpose. It was a habit I developed because I wanted people to like me and I wanted to always say the right thing. I never wanted to be a burden to anyone.
Anxiety has been something that I have had since I can remember. Honestly, I don't really remember a time in my life without anxiety. I have medications now and they have made it a lot easier to calm myself down, but medications aren't the only part of what is helping me reduce my overall anxiety levels; it's also therapy. I am a lot better because of speaking up and advocating for myself.
BOOKS THAT EFFECTIVELY PORTRAY ANXIETY
10 things i can see from here
"10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac
Perfect for fans of John Green's Turtles All the Way Down, this is the poignant and uplifting story of Maeve, who is dealing with anxiety while falling in love with a girl who is not afraid of anything.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.
Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.
Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?"
the perks of being a wallflower
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Since its publication, Stephen Chbosky’s haunting debut novel has received critical acclaim, provoked discussion and debate, grown into a cult phenomenon with over three million copies in print, spent over one year at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and inspired a major motion picture starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up."
all the bright places
"All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
The beloved New York Times bestseller that Entertainment Weekly described as “sparkling” and says “get[s] under your skin.” You won’t soon forget this heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love shared, life, lived, and two teens who find each other while standing on the edge.
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might kill himself, but every day he also searches for—and manages to find—something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground— it’s unclear who saves whom. Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. . . ."
CELEBRITIES WHO ADVOCATE
"... he reminds himself that despite how all-consuming anxiety can be, the feeling won't last forever. 'All pain is temporary,' he explained. 'Sometimes it lasts two hours, sometimes it lasts a day and sometimes it lasts five minutes. The point of the song is that no matter how long that lasts, you can come out the other end stronger and you come out of the other end always.'"
"While Oprah still battles anxiety today; it's something that has affected her throughout her entire life. She recently revealed that when she was a child she was sexually abused. The abuse she suffered happened for several years, which really took a toll on her mental and physical health. This experience changed the way she looked at her life and she was never the same after it. Her anxieties were rooted in the abuse she dealt with for years until she finally got professional help. These experiences caused her to have bad self-esteem and an anxious feeling when dealing with some people."
in my blood
"Mendes sticks to his signature acoustic sound, but “In My Blood” is a mature track filled with lines of anxiety and emotional pain."
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.
People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
What is GAD?
Osmosis video covering GAD basics of causes, symptoms, and potential treatments.
ARTICLES ABOUT GAD
PTSD Affects First Responders Too--Hear One Story
"GAD may come on gradually, with many people reporting feeling at least [mild anxiety symptoms for their entire lives. An anxiety disorder can begin at any time — in childhood, adolescence, or even late adulthood.
GAD is reportedly more common in women than in men and often occurs in relatives of people with anxiety disorders, meaning there may be a genetic component."