Sufferers of any of the diseases that make up the anxiety disorder spectrum know that there is no silver bullet for their often debilitating symptoms. Fewer than 1 in 4 sufferers report that their current treatment plan appropriately manages their symptoms because most physicians only address the symptoms of anxiety, not the physiological causes of anxiety. This article will help you develop a more comprehensive anxiety treatment plan.
Psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and medication can all play a role in helping to manage the symptoms caused by anxiety and panic disorders. For the few lucky patients who have a physician or psychotherapist experienced enough to handle the pain, disruption and unpredictability of anxiety disorders, proper medication in combination with regular psychotherapy can reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. For the rest of us however, we are all too often left to deal with the devastating effects of anxiety ourselves.
Advances in neurophysiology and biochemistry have shown us where in the brain anxiety and fear originates. They form in a part of the midbrain called the amygdala. The amygdala controls knee-jerk emotional reactions such as the flight-or-flight response, and its signals travel faster than the rational decision making signals formed in the pre-frontal cortex. For sufferers of anxiety disorder and panic disorder, this unfortunately means that the out-of-control fear and anxiety signals being sent from the midbrain aren’t easily controlled by your rational brain. Anyone with a true anxiety problem can tell you that they know their fear and anxiety is irrational, but they simply cannot control it. Now, we better understand why.
What this means for you is that we want to focus your anxiety treatment and coping mechanisms on strategies that target the amygdala. Commonly prescribed anxiety medications work on other areas of the brain that can lessen the symptoms of anxiety, but they do not act on the amygdala itself! This helps to explain why so few anxiety sufferers report symptom relief with standard treatment regimens.