Anxiety & Panic Attacks Research Findings
What is Emotion and How Does it Play a Part in Your Anxiety Disorder?
In the early 1900s two men pioneered research into the true nature of emotion and it's relationship to the physical body, symptoms and illness and came up with a number of definitive conclusions. Those men were Carl Lange and William James.
The most important conclusion they came to forms the foundation for our understanding of how emotions are created, and what impact thought can have on our bodies and health.
Their research concluded that an external catalyst, say a wild bear, is detected by your sensory organs and the body reacts with physical changes WITHOUT any conscious thought or emotions; in other words, the emotion of anxiety we experience during the anxiety response is physical and not emotional.
To demonstrate what I mean by this, next time you feel anxious, strip away all of the physical sensations you experience and you will find that nothing is left… the physical sensations ARE your experience of emotion!
How does this affect you?
You have anxiety disorder. But what does that actually mean? It means that your anxiety levels are stuck at a high level instead of subsiding after the ‘threat’ has gone.
You respond with high anxiety even when no REAL threat is present.
This is because your subconscious mind no longer searches EXTERNALLY for threats, it finds your anxiety symptoms and reacts to them as if they are the threat. Incredible, but true – your anxiety is causing anxiety and your body responds.
Your subconscious mind decided to rewire your brain to create a connection between your high anxiety and your perception of that behavior and once you reacted with fear of the fear, neural pathways began 'knitting' new behaviors into your subconscious mind… autonomic behaviors of fear.
This behavior is called Operant Conditioning, a process discovered and studied by Burrhus Frederic Skinner. Skinner was an American psychologist who pioneered research and advocated behaviorism which concentrates on understanding how behavior is the manifestation of environmental history with regard to the experience of consequences. In a nutshell, Skinner showed how carrying out certain behaviors followed by a reinforcing stimuli would 'etch' that behavior into the mind as neural pathways of memory and habit are constructed.
Extract from the National Institute Of Mental Health Website
"Heredity, other biological factors, stressful life events, and thinking in a way that exaggerates relatively normal bodily reactions are all believed to play a role in the onset of panic disorder. The exact cause or causes of panic disorder are unknown and are the subject of intense scientific investigation.
Studies in animals and humans have focused on pinpointing the specific brain areas and circuits involved in anxiety and fear, such as panic disorder. Fear, an emotion that evolved to deal with danger, causes an automatic, rapid protective response that occurs without the need for conscious thought. It has been found that the body's fear response is coordinated by a small structure deep inside the brain, called the amygdala.
The amygdala, although relatively small, is a very complicated structure, and recent research suggests that anxiety disorders may be associated with abnormal activation in the amygdala. One aim of research is to use such basic scientific knowledge to develop new therapies." (NIMH 2004)
So, what does this mean to sufferers?
It means that existing therapies which address the disorder by teaching coping strategies are completely misplaced and that actually, drug therapy isn't the answer either, although I am sure that someone will produce, a so called, 'wonder drug' at some point in the future.
If the Amygdala is the core controler of anxiety disorders in the brain, then therapeutic practices which address the imbalanced reactions within the organ are the most effective. Well Mr. Linden, it looks like you've proved your point! When will mainstream medicine listen up?