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Hi everyone, my name is Neil and I've been a member of this forum for a good few years, I've suffered from depression and anxiety on and off for the last 25 years and have had 6 relapses during that time, I have a pre disposition to depression and anxiety which means it's never far away even when I'm well but have managed long periods of being well. In my time I've experienced a gannet of symptoms and through therapy and CBT I have come to learn and understand the physiological reasons for the sensations, feelings and thoughts caused by anxiety and thought I would share these with folk, especially for those who are new to anxiety, have health anxiety or just would like to know why they are experiencing certain symptoms in the hope that it helps.
First of all anxiety is the body's alarm system and any symptom we experience when in the fight, flight, faint or freeze (FFFF) state is meant to keep us alive and is therefor benign and cannot harm us in any way. When the brain perceives a threat (real or imagined) adrenaline is released into the blood from the adrenal glands abd we experience uncomfortable feelings because the adrenaline makes the body systems speed up, diverting blood towards the big muscles preparing us to attack (anger), or escape (anxiety). The Amygdala is the art of the brain which acts like a smoke alarm ticking away in the background and is activated by things we consider to be a threat, triggering the release of adrenaline.
The Amygdala can be triggered by sensory information, thoughts, thinking, beliefs, certain behaviours and unresolved traumatic memories.
This is what happens to our bodies when the FFFF reaction is activated;
- Our brain is hijacked and thoughts race which makes it hard to think clearly and rationally with feelings of being unreal or detached. We then catastrophies, predict the future, become unable to concentrate and tend to focus on the trigger.
- Tingling or numbness in parts of our body especially the face or head, this is caused by the small blood vessels and capillaries contracting restricting the blood flow to that part of the body and diverting it to our big muscles.
- Dizzyness or lightheadedness caused as a result of faster breathing.
- Breathe fast and shallow, this helps us take in more oxygen which is transported around our blood system, this can some times give us a choking feeling.
- Stomach churning is caused by adrenaline reducing the blood supply to stomach as we don't need to digest when in FFFF mode, this can make us feel nausia, butterflies, or churning amongst other sensations.
- Muscle tension and "pumping up" which causes aches, pains, burning, twitching and spasm sensations is caused by blood containing vital oxygen and glucose sent to the big muscles to be ready for the FFFF response.
- Blurred vision or even improved vision is caused by the eyes widening to let more light in and cutting out our peripheral vision so we focus visually on the threat.
- Mouth dryness and difficulty to swallow is caused by the saliva glands switching off by the narrowing of the arteries as we don't need to eat whilst in FFFF mode.
- Body heats or sweats is a side effect of all the speeding up of systems and rapidly generating heat, the sweating cools us down again, it always so allows us to become "slippery" to allow escape.
- Heart beating faster and stronger is the body's way of rapidly sending oxygenated blood to the main muscles, it can also give us the palpitation sensation or skipped beat.
- Bladder relaxes as the inner sphincter muscle relaxed so you feel the need to pass urine.
I can't think of any other symptom presently but I think I've covered the main ones, I do realise and accept that everyone is unique and often present symptoms that are unusual, for me I get the corner of my mouth twitching upwards a bit like the classic Elvis lip curl, I can't explain it but know it only happens when I'm particularly anxious so know it's down to that. The other one I get is repeating songs in my head like a duke box again it's symptomatic of my anxiety and in some ways is a mechanism to stop me thinking more anxiety causing thoughts a bit like a defence mechanism.
I hope this helps folk to understand and in some ways be less frightened by their anxiety symptoms, feel free to PM me with any symptom not mentioned and I'll do my best to try and explain it but please understand I'm not a qualified Dr or psychiatrist I just have plenty experience with anxiety and the symptoms.
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