What Anxiety Does to the Human Body?
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The psychosomatic nature of anxiety is nowadays taken for granted, whilst the anatomical and physiological effects of it are claimed to be understudied. It is possible to assume that the issue of understanding anxiety is a matter of psychology. Neurohumoral regulation that along with its mental manifestation constitutes the essence of psychosomatics is regarded as an issue that exists at the confluence of psychology and medicine. Thus, studying the physiological mechanisms of anxiety, namely its effect on the human body, may help understand the nature of such clinical condition as a panic attack as well as the mechanisms of sensitivity and pain threshold. Moreover, the issue of anxiety being related to stress sets its understanding in the context of social life of the human species.
Anxiety is commonly referred to as a disorder characterized by a state of disturbance and mental stress (“Anxiety and the Brain”, n.d.). It is claimed to affect brain functioning above all. Physiological mechanisms of anxiety manifest themselves in the so-called neurotransmitters, namely serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (“Anxiety and the Brain”, n.d.). Considering the issue of hormone production, it is important to note that there are two specific elements launching physiological mechanisms that evoke anxiety, namely adrenaline/epinephrine and thyroid hormone (“Anxiety and the Brain”, n.d.). The excess of adrenaline/epinephrine mainly causes increase in heart rate and muscle tension. Thyroid hormone controls the amount of serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, and therefore, is directly linked with the physiological mechanisms of anxiety (“Anxiety and the Brain”, n.d.).
Due to its topicality, the issue of physiological mechanisms of anxiety hs become a point of concern for the latest anthropological and socio-psychological studies. “Extending Animal Models of Fear Conditioning to Humans” is an article written by M.R. Delgado, A. Olsson, and E.A. Phelps (2006). The article focuses on the issue of dealing with fear across the species, drawing parallels between animals and humans (Delgado, Olsson, & Phelps, 2006, pp. 39-46). Specifically, the authors of the article claim that the mechanisms of fear conditioning are merely correlates, referenced throughout the article as a paradigm and synonymous to dealing with fear and overcoming stress (Delgado et al., 2006, pp. 39-46). Thus, the researchers presume that physiological mechanisms of fear conditioning involve amygdala during the acquisition of fear and prefrontal areas during its extinction (Delgado et al., 2006, pp. 39, 40, 44). The scientists make their reference to the research conducted by Ivan Pavlov and base their investigation on the findings made by a great number of scholars, psychiatrists, and physicians (e.g. D.A. Hopkins, G. Holstege, A.J. McDonald, M.R. Milad, G.J. Quirk, and R. Garcia) (Delgado et al., 2006, pp. 39-46). The basic methods of the investigation include laboratory experiment and brain magnetic resonance examination. The article, however, does not report of the exact number of living beings under study. The sample can be characterized as descriptive rather than representative. During their research, the scientists have studied the physiological mechanisms of experiencing, learning emotions in general and fear in particular. They have arrived at the conclusion that the degree of similarity of fear conditioning is rather high in both animals and humans, and have identified specific brain areas involved in the process, namely amygdala and prefrontal areas.
“Anxiety Sensitivity annd its Dimensions across the Anxiety Disorders” is an article written by Brett Deacon and Jonathan Abramowitz (2006). The article mostly focuses on anxiety sensitivity and anxiety-related sensations (Deacon & Abrawitz, 2006, pp.837-855). The authors of the article hypothesize the three-partite nature of AS and refer to somatic, social, and cognitive aspects of anxiety (Deacon & Abrawitz, 2006, p.837), thus regarding anxiety sensitivity as a complex, multi-dimensional entity. In the course of the investigation, the scientists have studied clinical cases of anxiety-related psychopathology; basic medical assessment strategies, namely interviewing, questioners, and psychological testing were applied. Scientists report of 232 patients involved in the study, including 92 patients diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, 23 with generalized anxiety disorder, 35 with social phobia, 18 with specific phobia, 52 with panic disorder, and 12 with other anxiety disorders (Deacon & Abrawitz, 2006, p.840). The sample can be characterized as representative. In the course of the study, the scientists have revealed a correlation between Anxiety Sensitivity Index – Revised subscale and total scores, the latter revealing the greater discriminant validity (Deacon & Abrawitz, 2006, p.847).
Taking the aforementioned facts into consideration, it is possible to make the following conclusions. The physiological mechanisms of anxiety express high degree of similarity in all the living beings that are characterized by the high degree of development of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Physiological mechanisms of anxiety are controlled by brain and with the help of hormone secretion. The state of anxiety, therefore, is physically sensible. Understanding the mechanisms of anxiety can be regarded as an important aspect in terms of the social life of human species.