Anxiety isn't pleasant, but it's a necessary evil — it lets us know when danger is near, and helps us act accordingly. But what's actually going on in your body when you experience anxiety? Good news: We've got answers. A new video from the YouTube channel Life Noggin explains the science of anxiety, and it's packed full of information you might not already know. The delightful animated video goes not only into what happens in our bodies while we're having an anxious reaction, but also why some people experience anxiety more intensely than others. Anxiety disorders are no joke; they can make activities that are simple for some people to carry out almost impossible for others.
What can you do to mitigate your anxiety? Well, the good news is that it doesn't always require medication. As Medical Daily points out, a recent study discovered that just being kind to someone else can make us feel less anxious. Furthermore, developing habits like regular exercise, staying away from social media, and limiting your caffeine intake all contribute to stronger feelings of well-being. True, these strategies may not totally solve your problems, but they might help. As an anxious person myself, I can attest to the fact that every little step counts when it comes to keeping that feeling of dread at bay.
Read on for five facts about anxiety you might not have known, and scroll down to check out the full video.
1. Everyone Experiences Anxiety, But About 18 Percent Of People Have Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a normal response to stressful or dangerous situations, so we've all experienced it at one time or another. For 18 percent of the population, though, anxiety isn't just a thing that happens when you have a huge presentation coming up at work; it's an actual disorder. Anxiety disorders are characterized by their duration — the feeling can stick around for six months or more— and the severity of the symptoms. If you feel like you've got butterflies in your stomach, but you can still generally go about your day as normal, you probably don't have an anxiety disorder. But if the feeling is crippling and interferes with your ability to function on a day-to-day basis, you might be suffering from one.
2. Phobias Are More Than A Random Dislike Of Something
We toss the word “phobia” around a lot these days in reference to things we just don't like — clowns, the number four, the color blue, and so on. But it's worth remembering that a phobia is a lot more than simply disliking something. Defined as “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something,” a phobia often triggers anxiety, which in turn might lead to someone completely avoiding certain things or activities. For example, a person suffering from social anxiety disorder might have an intense fear of being judged by others or embarrassed in public, which might result in that person actively avoiding any type of social situation.
3. Anxiety Doesn't Always Have An Obvious Trigger
Although some anxiety disorders are triggered by phobias, not all of them are. Generalized anxiety disorder, for example, is characterized by excessive and persistent worry that isn't necessarily pegged to any specific thing. If you suffer from panic attacks, they can often strike suddenly and without any sort of warning.
4. Here's What's Going On In The Brain Of Someone Experiencing Anxiety:
There's a part of your brain called the amygdala. It's part of the limbic system, and it's responsible for fear and other emotional reactions. The amygdala tells the hypothalamus to initiate the fight or flight response, which results in the release of epinephrine. Epinephrine boosts the body's heart rate and blood pressure, and bam — you experience the physical symptoms of anxiety.
5. Here's What's (Probably) Going On In The Brain Of Someone Who Has An Anxiety Disorder:
Some studies suggest that the amygdala of someone with generalized anxiety disorder are less connected to the areas of the brain that determine how important certain stimuli are — which essentially means that the brain can't distinguish between the level of threat prompted by, say, a harmless ant crawling up your leg and a poisonous snake rearing up out of the grass in front of you with its fangs bared. You experience the same anxiety symptoms no matter what the stimulus is, hence the term "generalized anxiety disorder."
Watch the full video below: