According to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center headquartered in Rochester, MN, experiencing occasional anxiety is not uncommon. After all, such feelings are a byproduct of the mind and body reacting to dangerous, unfamiliar, or stressful situations, all of which can be either real or perceived. Some might even argue that a certain degree of anxiety is essential in that it enables us to stay alert and aware of our surroundings.
That said, severe anxiety, which is characterized by intense, excessive, and persistent worry, is another matter entirely. And these are the feelings that many individuals struggling with social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder, for example, experience regularly. To contextualize just how prevalent severe anxiety is in America, we need only take a look at a study published by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). The study found that an estimated 40 million Americans struggle with anxiety so severe that they have to take prescription-based medication, undergo psychotherapy, or both.
Is Anxiety a Byproduct of a Chemical Imbalance?
Studies show that anxiety and general nervousness, both of which affect the lives of millions of people in America, often stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain. To fully understand how and why this is the case, it helps to know a little more about what it means to have such an imbalance. In short, a chemical imbalance is a term used to describe exceedingly low or high levels of chemical messengers in the brain known as neurotransmitters.
The primary role of neurotransmitters is to transmit information between nerve cells within the brain. That said, the human brain houses hundreds, if not thousands, of these neurotransmitters. And an imbalance in any of them can trigger a myriad of negative emotional and psychological responses. Some of the more notable ones include depression, panic attacks, and anxiety.
What You Should Know About Neurotransmitters in the Brain
The neurotransmitters in the brain linked to mood and general well-being include dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid. To get a better sense of how an imbalance in these particular brain chemicals impact mood and even mental function, it helps to take a look at them individually, starting with dopamine. This neurotransmitter is responsible for maintaining energy levels, focus, and even generating movement. As such, it is not uncommon for individuals with a dopamine imbalance to become depressed, lose focus, and even feel lethargic.
As far as severe anxiety and general nervousness, this is where norepinephrine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid imbalances often come into the picture. Norepinephrine is associated with the “fight or flight” response, the physiological response to stressful situations, which can stem from being in dangerous or unfamiliar surroundings, for example. That said, it is quite common for individuals with a norepinephrine imbalance to experience some form of anxiety.
Along with regulating sleep, the neurotransmitter serotonin is instrumental in regulating appetite and overall mood. Therefore, it stands to reason that a serotonin imbalance could give way to feelings of depression and anxiety, not to mention a loss of appetite. Round things out is gamma-aminobutyric acid, also known as GABA. This neurotransmitter has an inhibitory effect in that it helps balance feelings of excitement and agitation. As such, an imbalance in this particular neurotransmitter can leave individuals feeling exceptionally anxious, according to several studies.
What Causes Chemical Imbalances in the Brain?
Having established that a chemical imbalance in the brain can trigger a myriad of emotional, psychological, and even physiological responses, let’s take a look at why they happen. Firstly, it is not uncommon for an imbalance involving one neurotransmitter to lead to an imbalance in others as they tend to work synergistically. That said, the exact cause of chemical imbalances in the brain is still not understood fully by the medical or scientific community. However, many scientists and researchers have theorized that poor nutrition, certain diseases, injuries, aging, and chronic stress can all lead to an increased risk of developing a chemical imbalance of some kind. It is worth noting that constantly reliving past traumatic experiences, such as in the case of those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can alter brain chemistry as well, according to many of the same researchers and scientists.
Treatments That Can Help Resolve Symptoms Caused by a Chemical Imbalance in the Brain
Fortunately, there is no shortage of prescription-based medications that can help individuals struggling with mental health disorders, including severe anxiety. Some of the more commonly prescribed ones include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, all of which can provide relief in as little as 30 minutes. Psychotherapy with a licensed therapist is also an effective way to resolve chronic worrying, anxiety, and much more. That being said, if you feel nervous all the time or struggle with any of the mental health disorders detailed in this article, consider speaking with one of our friendly and knowledgeable associates today. Call us at 833-610-1174.