Anxiety has a habit of engulfing us. Unlike the nagging pain of a headache or cut, anxiety paralyzes us to our very core. Naturally, we want rid of it. Whatever stops you from performing daily tasks or being your authentic self should be thrown off.
Unfortunately, anxiety likes to hang around. It sticks to us and prefers to snowball. When we’re worried, we isolate. And when we isolate, our thoughts get to us. We begin to stress, lose confidence, and before we know it – there’s a panic attack on the way.
If this resonates with you, know that you’re not alone.
Anxiety on a global scale
5% of the U.K. population are believed to suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) at any one time. That’s about 3.3 million people. Even more, striking yet is that it’s believed 275 million people worldwide are struggling with the same affliction.
Why is anxiety so prevalent?
Among them, there are certainly varying reasons why they feel this way. It all ties back to one simple fact: our brains are naturally wired to be anxious.
Perhaps we’re not alone in the wild like our ancestors were, but our brains haven’t gotten the memo yet.
According to your brain, a threat is a threat. At the most basic and rudimentary level, it doesn’t know the difference between a job interview and a ready-to-pounce lion.
So, while you’re tucked away in your office panicking, your mid-brain is somewhere in mid-Africa circa 50,000 B.C. The same neural pathways that fire under attack during a hunt also fire under stress from a business meeting.
In one case, you’re trying to save your job; in the other, your life. So, this is pretty serious stuff. Plus, we’re living more fast-paced and connected lives than ever, both catalysts for an overwhelmed mind.
How anxiety can manifest
Your fight or flight response is continuously stimulated, leading to fatigue, chronic stress, psychosomatic ailments (aches & pains,) and several anxiety disorders. Panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), just to name a few.
The hormones and neural pathways that cause anxiety
This is all down to two pesky hormones: Adrenaline and Cortisol. Yes, that’s right. Whether you can pinpoint the cause of your anxiety or have a list as long as your arm of reasons – it’s still all down to two chemicals. Neurotransmitters, to be exact.
Progesterone has even been put forward as a potential causative hormone as it’s been shown to enhance amygdala activity – the part of your brain where your moods are regulated.
As you probably know, adrenaline kicks in under mild-to-extreme circumstances. Whether you’re jumping out of a plane or took a tumble on the sidewalk, this hormone is instantly emitted from the adrenal glands just above your kidneys.
From here, it gets to work raising your blood pressure, increasing your heart rate, expanding your pupils, altering the body’s metabolism, and even expanding your airways. Sound familiar? Of course, some of those are the direct causes of the common anxiety symptoms. Out-of-control beating heart, nausea, extreme alertness, shortness of breath – it’s all explained by a simple hormone.
Produced alongside adrenaline in the adrenal glands is cortisol. A steroid hormone that essentially amplifies all of adrenaline’s anxiety-inducing work. However, cortisol is also known as the primary stress hormone.
Why does this happen?
But if you’re in the midst of a panic attack, you’re not worrying about what’s flowing about your body; you might, on the other hand, be wondering what caused it.
The neurological missteps behind anxiety
As mentioned before, anxiety comes from the primary emotional centres of your brain contained within the limbic system. The limbic system is incapable of independent thought. It directly reacts to any signals it receives from the mind or body.
This tiny system is found in your brain stem and is usually tightly connected with the prefrontal cortex – the part of your brain that can reason.
In numerous studies, neurologists have noted that the link between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex appears to be weakened in patients with anxiety.
This suggests that any perceived-threat or stressor will be processed solely by the limbic system, which will alert the adrenal glands to start firing adrenaline and cortisol.
Whereas, had the information been sufficiently passed between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex – the stressor could have been calmed with a rational and logical response.
Anxiety can be overcome in many ways
While this may seem like all hope is lost, the opposite is the case. The brain is notorious for its plasticity. If a natural pathway or connection is weakened, it can easily be reinforced and strengthened over time.
While many coping mechanisms such as exercise, eating healthy, and keeping to a routine are great for boosting confidence and keeping you busy, what they’re really doing is keeping your mindset healthy. And when we’re thinking positively, our brain follows suit!
However, i’s believed to take between 18 and 254 days for a habit to form and around 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. It’s within these periods that some people revert back to anxiety-inducing habits and our old thinking patterns – just what we don’t want.
However, research has shown that setting time-based goals can increase motivation, self-confidence, and chances of eventual success. So, it’s believed that having a timeframe in mind before achieving significant mental changes can be helpful to those struggling with anxiety.
Either way, it’s essential that the thoughts and behaviours causing the body to have anxious reactions be changed for the better. Through this, the neural pathways can be remedied and corrected over time.
However, some people simply do not have the time to make significant changes to their lifestyle or mindset. Moreover, the triggering factor for anxiety is often deep-set, often developing in childhood or teenage years.
While the general mechanism and patterns for anxiety remain the same in these people, they may just need a little extra help. For this group, more extensive treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Behavioural Therapy, and certain medication can be of help.
Could hypnotherapy be the answer to your anxiety and stress?
However, a lesser-known and often less invasive form of combatting chronic anxiety is hypnotherapy. Long known for its ability to reach into the depth of our minds and subconsciously rearrange our thinking patterns, it’s clear to see how hypnotherapy can benefit chronic anxiety sufferers. Research has even proven its efficacy, showing it to be equal in therapeutic abilities to CBT, if not more effective.
By tapping into your mind and subconsciously gradually rewiring your brain through positive mantras, hypnotherapy can reduce instances of stress and panic attacks. Moreover, you’ll receive the confidence boost that comes naturally with feeling in control of your thoughts again.
So, why not release control of your thoughts for just one moment to claim them back forever? By booking an appointment with a professional hypnotherapist, you stand to release tension and pain while breaking down mental blocks with ease. The natural result of this is a boost in self-esteem, peace-of-mind, and a steady foundation of confidence.
Hypnotherapy is gentle on the mind while getting to work deep within your brain. Everyone’s anxiety and stress has a different solution, perhaps hypnotherapy is the one for you.