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What are the effects of anxiety on the brain?

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asked Jan 26, 2016 in Neurobiology by Tomas

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Anxiety has effects on the brain, which is centered on the amygdala. The amygdala is the anxiety and fear processing center of the brain. In various anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), the amygdala has increased volume (Schienle et. al., 2011). In addition, when someone has anxiety, the brain circuits which are centered on the amygdala and has connections to the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) are disrupted and hyperactive (Schienle et. al., 2011).

Whenever you are exposed to your feared object or situation, then there is increased activity in your amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and insula. However, after undergoing exposure therapy, there was marked reduction of hyperactivity in the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and insula  (Schienle et. al., 2011; Goossens et al., 2007).

For panic disorder, the amygdala and hippocampus are smaller in volume when compared to healthy controls, but the brainstem nuclei is enlarged, presumably from the activation of the locus coeruleus and sympathetic nervous system in the fight or flight response (Del Casale et al, 2013).

In PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), the hippocampus is smaller, presumably from the damage sustained from stress hormones such as cortisol (Nemeroff et al., 2006; McEwen, 1997).

In OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), there is hyperactivity in the connections between the orbitofrontal cortex and the basal ganglia, and antidepressants helped to decrease this hyperactivity (Beucke et al., 2013).

It is unknown if these brain effects are permanent, but treatment seems to minimize the damage, if not reverse it. Please visit the rest of AnxietyBoss.com for more help and information on anxiety.
answered Mar 2, 2016 by drcarlo (295,840 points)