Thursday, February 1, 2018

Anxiety: Amygdala Gets Bored

My second book is tentatively titled Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. It integrates the theories of fight-or-flight, stress, emotion and cognition to understand our natural responses to a threat. All of the methods taught by activities associated with preparing a person to engage in a violent encounter are actually interventions in the evolutionary 'survival process.' I have come to appreciate that the theory associated with understanding our natural and learned responses to a threat are also applicable to the mental health condition of anxiety and panic disorders. Consequently, a concluding chapter in that book expands the readership to those experiencing, or more importantly attempting to support, those who experienced anxiety and/or panic disorders.

My stepdaughter came home from her first day of year nine at school. She explained how she was nervous for the first few classes because she didn't know anyone in the classes. What happened after those first few hours? She got 'bored.' No more nervousness, aka anxiety, and boredom prevailed.

That is anxiety. Our amygdala scans the environment for threats and opportunities. When it detects a threat, real or otherwise, it initiates a defence sequence that we call anxiety (or fear). When that threat is not realised, our amydala gets bored and switches off.

That in a nutshell is anxiety. It is also anxiety's remedy - 'exposure therapy', by whatever name. Amygdala detects a threat, real or not, and reacts accordingly, and the more exposure it has to that stimulus the more it realises that it is not a threat and therefore does not react as if it is a threat.

I know. I know because I have been diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder, and I have observed the above in action.