Anxiety: It Affects the Brain AND the Body

Anxiety: It Affects the Brain AND the Body

Anxiety is common in students today, and according to, 70% of teens say that anxiety and depression is a major problem for their peers.

Uncomfortable Side Effects

In an online survey I conducted, several students claimed to experience nausea, shakiness, increased heart rate, and trouble breathing. Along with those physical symptoms are racing thoughts and panic. Some students also said that they felt down on themselves, unmotivated, and tired. This is because depression often comes along with anxiety. But why do these things happen? When your brain senses some sort of danger, it prepares your body by giving you adrenaline, which can also trigger abdominal discomfort. 

How an Anxious Brain Works

Because of this, it’s important to understand how an anxious brain works. Two important brain structures to learn about are the Amygdala, which senses danger, and the Hypothalamus, which puts our bodies into survival mode. The amygdala becomes hypersensitive in a person who experiences moderate anxiety, which can cause fear when there isn’t any real danger or threat. Jennifer Shannon, a therapist, writes in her book Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind, “For those of us with a lot of anxiety, our monkey mind’s guesses err on the side of safety. This makes for plenty of misperceptions.” 

Memory Affecting Anxiety

If you are put in a similar situation in which you had previously experienced something scary or traumatic, the amygdala sounds the alarm, even if it’s unlikely a bad thing will happen again. People who have had panic attacks know that they can come out of nowhere, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. 

How to Cope

My advice to people who are struggling with anxiety is to separate yourself from your brain. Take a moment to stop and recognize that your brain is simply trying to protect you. That voice in your head making you feel bad about yourself does not define you, nor should it prevent you from seeking help or guidance. I struggled with anxiety for a long time, and learning about these things and taking these actions has helped me immensely, and I hope they can help you as well.