Anxiety - Let's Get It Under Control

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Post on 23-Jul-2016




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The current biological hypotheses of anxiety and proven strategies to assist in its management.


  • The current biological hypotheses of anxiety and proven strategies to assist in its management.



    Amanda Barnett BSc(Hons) 2015


    Approximately 5% of the adult population suffer from severe anxiety sometime in their life!

    Although anyone can suffer from anxiety, when the condition becomes excessive or disproportionate in relation to social

    relationships, financial matters or other specific aspects of your life, it is classified as GAD.

    Approximately 5% of the adult population is affected by GAD at some time during their lives (Davies MN et al,


    This disorder is twice as common in women as it is in men.

    The disorder is often combined with sleep disruption, irritability, restlessness, fatigue and difficulties in


  • Although GAD can be present with other disorders such as Major Depression Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and substance abuse, it is

    also a stand-alone disorder independent of other conditions.

    One of the major features of GAD is a high level of anxiety sensitivity (AS), defined as the arousal of fear related sensations. In

    other words, the sufferer believes that harmful consequences will result from the thing about which they are anxious. A recent twin

    study suggests that increased AS involves differential gene expression (involving the gene RBFOX1) (Davies MN et al, 2015).

    Because GAD is identified in some monozygotic twins (twins from the same egg) but not others, this suggests that even if there is a

    genetic component it is likely to be as a result of epigenetic factors (gene regulation occurring after birth involving factors other than simply biological ones). Stress-related anxiety has been postulated to have its origin in the part of the brain known as the amygdala. Neurotransmitter (chemical molecules that allow one part of the brain to communicate with another) pathways in this and other

    areas are currently under investigation.



    Like many other conditions there appears to be both a biological and an environmental component!

  • What is little known outside the scientific arena is that anxiety (along with depression and immunity) can be physically elicited by social stress. Experiments (primarily performed in animal models), demonstrated that social stress triggers the action of a specific type

    of cell (inflammatory myeloid progenitor cells or MPCs; CD11b+ /Ly6Chi) that move to to the brain, promoting anxiety-like

    behaviour (Ramirez et al, 2015). In these experiments anti-anxiety medication has been shown to be effective in reducing the

    symptoms of GAD. In a recent meta analysis (looking at a series of studies together), it appears that a combined treatment of

    medication, exercise and psychological assistance forms the best treatment plan (Coventry PA et al, 2015).

    So, although anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication can form part of the treatment for GAD, a range of other actions are

    effective in alleviating anxiety.



    A combined treatment of medication, exercise and psychological assistance forms the best treatment plan! Dont be afraid to seek help! Remember pscyhiatry is just another medical specialty.


    Anxiety can affect every area of your life if you dont have a trusted friend to talk to, there are good techniques available

    from qualified psychologists and counsellors!

    Anybody whos ever suffered from anxiety knows that it not only makes you feel awful inside but it affects the way you communicate with other people. Holding a conversation requires a lot of brain activity while youre listening, thinking and planning a response.

    Because of the resultant increase in stress hormones people suffering from anxiety often avoid situations where they need to communicate. However, talking can be one of the best ways of alleviating anxiety. Cognitive behavioural therapy from a fully

    qualified clinical psychologist can also significantly reduce anxiety (Naidu VV et al, 2015) Here are a couple of tricks to make

    communicating easier, if you dont feel that you have a friend to talk to:

    Deep breaths when were anxious we unconsciously breathe more shallowly. Remembering to breathe more deeply releases endorphins that help you to relax. (Interesting note: smokers who believe it's the cigarette

    that calms them may be interested to know that, often, its the associated act of deep breathing).

    Dont be afraid to tell someone that youre anxious. Just a little sorry if I seem distracted, I woke up feeling a bit

    anxious this morning is often enough to put you at ease and often opens up a conversation as everybody at some

    time in their life suffers from anxiety.

  • Im sure youve heard it before but exercise really does help relieve anxiety. However, did

    you know that people suffering from anxiety appear to be

    wired to avoid exercise? The elevated levels of anxiety

    sensitivity actually cause you to avoid adversive emotional and

    physical states (Moshier SJ et al, 2015). So go easy on yourself

    but push through that barrier its worth it!

    Again, you may be thinking if one more person tells me to think

    positively, Ill hit them! Quite right and severely depressed people need

    more than just positive affirmations to help them. However.. the brains

    of anxiety suffers appear to be biased towards negative words (Eden AS et al, 2015). That is, a part of the brain involved in processing emotions, the

    amygdala, appears to be biased to remembering and acting upon

    negative words rather than neutral words. This sensitivity might mean that people suffering from anxiety

    unconsciously only see the negative rather than the positive.

    You only have to look at the numerous posts on Facebook and social media to see that

    sharing positive affirmations is alive and well. I think this is a positive step as you need to re-train your brain to focus on the positive rather than listen to the



    people suffering from anxiety appear to be wired to avoid exercise? Andthe brains of anxiety suffers appear to be biased towards

    negative words

  • There was a time that my family could tell I was anxious or depressed by the music I

    listened to. Without me even being aware of it my mood was influenced by the music I was listening to. It has now been scientifically proven that in

    coronary patients, anxiety can be substantially alleviated by listening to soothing music

    (Koelsch S. & Jancke L., 2015). Their findings demonstrated that music can powerfully

    evoke and modulate emotions and moods, along with changes in heart activity, blood pressure

    and breathing. A recent randomised controlled trial in

    Denmark backed up these findings in workers on stress-related leave (Beck BD et al,

    2015). Play around with different types of music and see how they affect your mood its a very illuminating experiment!

    Many people dont realise that they use alcohol (and other drugs) as a form of

    self-medication. In an interesting recent study undertaken in Australia, three different groups of

    students, aged 12-17 years, were assessed to see if anxiety increased or

    decreased with the addition of drugs or alcohol. The

    three groups were 1) no drug or alcohol use, 2) mainly

    alcohol use and 3) polydrug use. The authors concluded that psychological distress

    was higher in polydrug users and alcohol users, relative to nondrug users, and polydrug

    users reported more psychological distress than alcohol users (Kelly AB et

    al, 2015).



    Anxiety can be substantially alleviated by listening to soothing music

  • Bielen J et al (2015) state that sleep disruptions produce decreased cellular resilience associated with lower resistance to stressful

    events. Thus, make sure that the body has a regular pattern of sound sleep; yes, everything your mother told you was true!. It has also been suggested that to fully process stressors and emotions

    during the day, the brain needs enough REM (or rapid eye movement sleep the sleep where you dream).

    After burning out the CEO of the Huffington Post has now added nap rooms to her offices. She believes that

    people are not only less anxious but more productive when they can nap during the working day!


  • REMEMBER: With anxiety even when you have knowledge, you tend not to use it. Find out what works for you and create your own

    checklist then use it!

    Another handy trick to relieve anxiety is to ask yourself what is the absolute worst that could happen if this situation were to occur? Youll normally find that whatever it is, you

    could deal with it & the body naturally relaxes.

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    for full reference articles or further information.