For those suffering from anxiety, each day can be a series of challenges. Thankfully, we have evolved as a society to understand that anxiety is a real condition, not something that can be controlled by the person experiencing it. Sadly, there is still a stigma in many areas of the world and hopefully research can continue to prove it’s a health condition like any other…not a choice.
The more research that’s done, the more we understand about anxiety and how it impacts the brain. The latest study in the journal Current Biology, showed that variances in the brain actually cause anxiety sufferers to view the world differently than their peers.
Essentially, the brain’s ability to change and reorganize itself by creating new connections (plasticity) is impacted in those with anxiety. The result is that those with anxiety are less able to differentiate between threatening situations and safe ones. They are put in to a constant state of “flight” that is beyond their control.
Even after the stimuli was no longer present in the experiment, the brains of those with anxiety held on to the experience far longer. Essentially the line between threatening and non-threatening experiences is blurred.
Perhaps the greatest take-away from this study confirms what anxious individuals already know – there is no way for it to be controlled since the brain truly doesn’t know the difference between a safe experience and a threatening one.
With each new scientific discovery like this one we take away a new understanding of mental illness but this sadly doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a stigma.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 25% of those with a mental illness feel that people approach their illness with understanding.