… and WHY do we have Anxiety?
Anxiety is manufactured in the amygdala, a small part of the brain located behind our temples that is responsible for controlling emotions such as fear, anxiety, aggression and arousal.
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When danger is immediate and requires a sudden response, the amygdala kicks into high gear, triggering an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, an elevation of blood sugar for quick energy, and a redistribution of blood from stomach organs to relevant muscles.
At the same time, the amygdala also blunts the human functions that are nonessential to immediate survival: digestion, salivation, urination, defecation, and sexual arousal. By ensuring negative emotions like fear and anxiety override less pressing thoughts and feelings, the amygdala creates a sense of urgency – the emotional response that drives the physical response of ‘fight or flight’ – to increase our chances of survival.
When the amygdala takes over, one’s sense of urgency becomes way out of proportion to the ‘threat’.
The amygdala also plays a role in memory by associating stimuli with events. For example, certain smells let you know food is coming or warn of imminent danger – or pleasure. The disease of anxiety is often a result of the amygdala over-reacting to stimuli. In doing so, it provides a sense of worry and urgency that is not only unnecessary but harmful. When this occurs, the brain’s ability to carry out normal thoughts and functions required for happy, productive living is compromised. Instead of thoughts being able to flow, one is trapped in a constant state of survival preparedness. A person suffering from anxiety will be convinced his hyper-vigilance is an appropriate use of thought when really, the rumination and worry is repetitive and non-productive. When the amygdala takes over, one’s sense of urgency becomes way out of proportion to the ‘threat’. Thoughts on any subject can spin out of control, allowing no chance for effective decision-making or closure. A person in this state could spend hours worrying about how to pay a bill or whether an innocent comment from a friend was meant as an insult.