Occasional anxiety is expected in life such as when facing work problems, taking a test or making a big decision. People who are plagued with persistent anxiety will often have symptoms that disrupt normal daily living. These may include excessive worry, feeling restless or on-edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, difficulty controlling one's emotions, irritability and problems with sleep.
Anxiety disorders are thought to result in part from disruption in the balance of activity in the emotional centers of the brain rather than the higher cognitive centers (pre-fontal cortex) which are responsible for executive functions such as troubleshooting, multi-tasking, decision making and impulse control. The pre-frontal cortex is the most highly evolved region of the brain that regulates one's impulses, emotions and behavior.
The pre-frontal cortex governs areas deep within our brain that process emotions and are referred to as the limbic system. In particular, the amygdala processes external stimuli and initiates behavioral responses such as fear, aggression and defensive behavior. It also plays a role in the formation and retrieval of emotional and fear related memories.
The different regions of the brain communicate via small proteins referred to as neurotransmitters; many of these are packaged and released within limbic regions where they can influence stress and emotion circuitry. Medications used act primarily on neurotransmitter systems such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Anxiety disorders respond well to treatment with medication in combination with therapy to develop coping skills.
When there are thoughts, impulses, or plans to harm oneself, or end one’s life, it is critical to get help now. For immediate help, Dial 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room, or call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Hotline.