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The Biology of Anxiety

            Anxiety is the brain's way of telling the body that there is danger and that something painful is coming. It is a biological process that tells us when we can stay where we are, and when we either need to protect ourselves or move to a safer place. When the brain tells the body that it is in danger, the Sympathetic Nervous System starts up, making the person anxious. They increase their oxygen by breathing faster and shallower. It increases the heart rate and the blood rushes to the muscles of the arms and legs (WebMD, 2013). It is also what makes the body focus its attention on running and fighting. The Sympathetic Nervous System is what causes you to have clammy hands and feet, an upset stomach, or a sense of dread when you're anxious (WebMD, 2013). When studying worry, scientists found more activity in the left-hemisphere (WebMD, 2013). Worry is associated more with obsessing, going over and over something, or making up stories in your head. Anxiety disorders affect about 19 million Americans and most anxiety disorders begin in childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood (Henig, 2009). They also occur slightly more often in women than in men.
             When the brain recognizes that you're not in danger anymore, the Parasympathetic Nervous System starts to work and does the exact opposite, to bring the systems back to normal. Sometimes the brain gets stuck in the Sympathetic mode, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System doesn't receive the response to start (Kelly, 2011). This is when an anxiety disorder develops.  Anxiety helps you cope by getting you ready to face a threatening situation. It makes you alert and gives you an adrenaline boost to help you perform better. When the anxiety and fear makes you unable to perform an activity, lasts for months after the event has passed, and is more intense, there's an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are illnesses that cause people to experience excessive fear, worry, or uneasiness that interfere with their daily lives.

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