Anxiety – The Physiology
1 in 5 people experience an anxiety disorder at some point intheir lives. Anxiety can affect any personality type, whether introverted or extroverted, young, or elderly, male or female, wealthy or poor.It’s important for someone to get support if they believe they are experiencing an anxiety disorder. Finding a good psychologist in Melbourne can be an important step to getting support for treatment.
Anxiety in some situations is normal, including job interviews, giving a speech, or trying something new. But when individuals experience on-going anxiety in a variety of settings, find the anxiety significantly difficult to control, and start to notice functional life impacts, they may have developed an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders can occurdue to multiple factors and we will do a brief review of 2 major groups: biological and psychological.
- Based on family studies, it has been suggested that a person may inherit a vulnerability which makes them more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
- This doesn’t guarantee inheritability. Lifestyle, early learning, and various stressors are very important factors in developing a potential disorder.
- The psychological component refers to how well we deal with stressors, and many other complicated factors.
When a person feels fear or any kind of danger, a fight or flight response activates, and it affects three major systems- physical, cognitive, and behavioral system.
The physical system undergoes major, temporary changes that allowsa person to either run awayor fight the perceived threat. The brain sends a message to the autonomous nervous system that has two branches- sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. The sympathetic branch is the part that activates the body to prepare for action. It releases chemicals, including adrenalin and noradrenalin and they maintain physical changes for one period of time.These changes can include:
- An increase in heart rate and strength of heartbeat that can become very noticeable. The increased heart rate enables blood to be pumped through the body faster so that the tissues have more oxygen. It also helps to eliminate waste products from the body.
- Blood gets redistributed from the non-vital parts of the body (such as skin, fingers, and toes) to the vital parts (the heart, the brain, the lungs). This change results in pale skin and cold fingers and toes, numbness, and tingling.
- The increase in breathing rate and depth occurs so the tissues get more oxygen. This can cause breathlessnessor a feeling of tightness and pain. The blood supply to the brain is decreased which can then lead to dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, and blurred vision.
- The increase in sweating causes the body to become more slippery (which may have been helpful from an evolutionary perspective when facing predators) and it cools the body off to prevent it from overheating.
- The pupils widen to let more light which enables a person to use their sight to identify any hidden figures and details. This can cause blurred vision and a very strong sensitivity to light.
- There’s also decreased activity of the digestive system which allows more energy to be diverted into systems more relative to fight or flight. This can lead to decrease in salivation, dry mouth, feelings of nausea, heavy stomach, or constipation.
- The muscle tension prepares a person for a fight or flight reaction and it can lead to aches, pains, trembling and shaking.
Researching an anxiety psychologist in Melbourne can be a good place to start to get support.