While we all feel anxious from time to time, how anxiety changes the brain can be pretty profound and surprising. From laying down new neural pathways, to inciting unhealthy coping responses, there are quite a few surprising ways unchecked anxiety can begin to leave its mark on your mind, body, and even your personality.
That's because "our bodies [and] minds are designed to deal with short-term threats," Dr. Steve Levine, board certified psychiatrist and founder and CEO of Actify Neurotherapies, tells Bustle. "When chronically stressed by anxiety, our protective mechanisms turn against us and result in damage, including to important brain communication circuits." While it's not a change you can see, obviously, you might feel these changes in the form of increased anxiety, or other mental health issues — such as depression.
"Fortunately, healthy activities like exercise or treatment in the form of talk therapy or medications can reverse some of these changes and restore a healthy balance," Dr. Levine says. "But it argues for addressing anxiety as early as possible." If you feel anxious, or think your anxiety might be getting out control, don't hesitate to seek help. In doing so, you can prevent some of the changes listed below from happening over time. But more importantly, you'll be starting down the road to better handling your anxiety, and feeling better in general.