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How does fear and anxiety affect the brain and body?

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by

Derek Nam

on 6 May 2014

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Transcript of How does fear and anxiety affect the brain and body?

Final Conclusion
Quite frankly, the human species could possibly be extinct if it wasn't for the huge impact fear has on the body. If the brain didn't detect threats fast enough, or didn't prepare the body to flee, lots of trouble could be caused. To summarize, when you feel scared or anxious, lots of things are going on in your body in order to keep you safe. The brain gives orders to the body almost instantly when danger is sensed. Experiences with fear and anxiety are also remembered in the brain to prepare the body for next time. It's kinda like the saying "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Keep in mind that fear and anxiety are two very important emotions, and that's why you result in a full body response. It's amazing that even the slightest movement in your surroundings can get the gears in your brain turning and your body moving almost immediately.
Introduction
Emotions are what define how you feel about things in your environment. Fear and anxiety are emotions that are strongly linked to your brain and play a big role in your body and actions. Sometimes, the brain can work on its own without a person being aware of whats happening during these emotions.
The Emotion Files: Fear
Fear is the emotion that can be considered responsible for the survival of the human species. It activates the body during times of potential danger, telling it to either run or battle for its life. This is called the "flight" or "fight" response. The body reacts and does whatever it needs to do to ensure its safety. However, none of this would be possible without the brain
Brain Memories
After a fearful experience, the brain tends to remember the strong emotions. These memories are calle "flashbulb memories". In the future, the brain uses past events to help analyze what is happening in the present. For example, if you have been stung by a bee and were very scared, you might become terrified if you see something that looks remotely similar to a bee, even if it something like a fly. This is also how phobias can develop.
The Emotion Files: Anxiety
Anxiety is an emotion that is the general feeling of worried. It helps our body prepare to confront a crisis by putting the body on alert. The feeling you get when on a ledge or when you get to the highest point of a roller coaster. This is anxiety and it happens because of the brain.
The Brain's Involvement In Fear/Anxiety
When you get that feeling of fear or anxiety, it's really your brain that's going to work. The Limbic System is a group of brain structures that control emotions and creates the body's response to emotions. The main parts of the brain during fear and anxiety are the amygdala, thalamus, brain stem, and sensory cortex. Each part has a different job when keeping your body safe from danger.
How does fear and anxiety affect the brain and body?
The Amygdala
When it comes to fear, I guess you could say the amygdala's the boss. It is small and almond shaped, but it is extremely important. It receives information from other structures and checks for threats. If it senses a possible threat, it directs other structures to start a full body response.
Amygdala
The Thalamus
The thalamus is the like the gossipers in your school, it is the first one to know information. Its job is to get information from sensory organs (nose, eyes, skin, ears) and quickly process it. From there the brain signals get sent down two paths. One goes to the amygdala, where the brain's "alarm" is sounded. The other goes to the sensory cortex.
The Sensory Cortex
While the amygdala is starting the body's responses, the sensory cortex is thoroughly analyzing the information received from the thalamus. It will confirm whether the threat is real or a false alarm and can relax the body.
The Brain Stem
This part of the brain is what creates the body response. It gets orders from the amygdala to freeze the body and increase awareness during times of fear.
When the brain sense possible danger and you feel anxious, the body changes in many ways that you may not realize. Your heart pumps faster so the muscles have more oxygen for a possible fight. Your face gets the look of fright to potentially warn others of danger. Your glands release hormones like adrenaline, which will start your body's defenses. The hairs on your arms and legs stick up (In the stone age, this made cavemen look bigger). All these actions are ordered by none other than the brain.
Body Reactions
Full transcript